Designer Steven Lagos in Myanmar - Neiman Marcus
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Designer Steven Lagos in Myanmar

Regina Campbell

November 21, 2014

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More than 30 years after the launch of LAGOS, Steven Lagos’ jewelry remains a classic. While the Caviar beads and two-tone silver creations are recognizable from a distance, we rarely get to see where Lagos’ designs originate, in many cases locales inspired by his travels. Lagos recently ventured to Southeast Asia, more precisely, to Myanmar, also known as Burma. Major Buddhist pilgrimage sites, such as the gold leaf-covered Shwedagon Pagoda and the Golden Rock, are inspirational to many. Now, take a look at Myanmar from the eyes of Steven Lagos.

Young Monks in a rodeside temple
Young Monks in a roadside temple
Steven Lagos boating to the floating Temple. No other way to arrive...
Steven Lagos boating to the floating Temple. No other way to arrive…

NM: Which cities did you visit during your trip to Myanmar?
SL: Yangon (formerly Rangoon) and the surrounding area and Mt. Kyaiktiyo, where the Golden Rock is.

NM: Tell us a bit about the culture in the streets as opposed to the lifestyle of the monks in the temples.
SL: It’s a very spiritual place. There’s such a sense of optimism. The locals are so kind and welcoming. They love Americans. The monks are holy men and revered in society. They are the center of the community, and you can feel their energy. They were very nice and welcoming, but in a more reserved and peaceful way. Everyone is super-friendly.

Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda

NM: The use of gold and gemstones is very different throughout Southeast Asia. What struck you the most?
SL: I am always fascinated by the importance of gems and jewelry throughout the world. Every culture has its own style and jewelry and traditions. Jewels have been a part of their culture for a very long time. Everything is encrusted with gold and gems and is super-ornate and detailed.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda also known as Golden Rock
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda also known as Golden Rock
A temple at Golden Rock
A temple at Golden Rock

NM: Name a must‐visit place in Myanmar.
SL: It would be impossible to pick one. The Golden Rock was amazing. The Shwedagon Pagoda has so much energy you can feel it. All the temples and the people. I did not get to Mandalay bay this trip , and I hear that’s amazing, too . Next time!

A fruit stand near the Floating temple
A fruit stand near the Floating temple

NM: Where to eat:
SL: Local restaurants serving local foods. There is a heavy Indian and
Thai influence. We had a great guide who helped us navigate the local food scene. When I went, there was no Western-style tourist business or infrastructure – very little Western influence at all. It is culturally pure and genuine and very raw. That was the appeal for me.

NM: Where to shop:
SL: Bogyoke Aung San Market is a fantastic bazaar located in central Yangon. It’s really beautiful with colonial architecture and cobblestone streets filled with antiques, Burmese handicraft and jewelry, art galleries and clothing stores. Spend the whole day and you still can’t see everything.

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NM: Favorite souvenir:
SL: I bought a large antique teak carving of the life of Buddha on a previous visit. It’s 3 and a half by 14 feet long.

NM: Where to stay:
SL: Golden Rock Hotel in Kyaiktiyo . It’s at the top of the mountain, and you have to hike up or hire a team of four men to carry you in a sleigh. You need to hire a Sherpa to carry your belongings. It’s a pilgrimage – very raw, naturally beautiful and off the beaten track.

The walls of the temples covered in ceramic deities
The walls of the temples covered in ceramic deities

NM: What aesthetic elements from Myanmar are you taking back home as inspiration for your work?
SL: I love the ornate detail, the Eastern “line” and design sense. The use of gems has become a focus in my work since this trip. I am developing a collection of gem-encrusted statement earrings for next year that were conceived in Myanmar. Stay tuned…

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