The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2022

The Designer Returns Home: Nong Tumsutipong ’82

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
When Project Runway Thailand came knocking on the door of fashion designer Nong Tumsutipong '82, she knew it was an opportunity that she couldn't pass up.
When Project Runway, the reality competition show for fashion designers, first launched in 2004, Nong Tumsutipong was living in New York and working as a fashion designer. “Everyone said you need to be on this show!” she recalls. Nong knew she had the talent and the skills but was also wary. “You don’t know how they will portray you, and they feed you all this drama to make ‘good tv’.” Nong didn’t pursue it. However, when Project Runway Thailand came knocking seventeen years later, it was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up.
Nong always knew that she was destined to go into fashion. Her mom owned a famous couture house in Bangkok, and Nong grew up sewing and creating her own fashions in her mom’s workroom. On the recommendation of a family friend, Nong’s parents sent her to Fay in the fall of 1978 as a sixth grade boarding student. Nong was the first Thai student at Fay and one of only two Asian girls. With girls still outnumbered by boys at Fay, the boarding girls were a tight-knit group. “It was like having a slumber party all the time,” Nong recalls. What Fay didn’t offer in the ’70s and early ’80s was room for creativity with the dress code. “Fay was totally preppy back then—all Brooks Brothers and L.L. Bean.” Nong recalls attempting to introduce fashionable high-rise cropped pants to her New England friends with dismal results. “Everyone thought my pants were too short and made fun of them, so I just went back to wearing my L.L. Bean pants with the whales on them!” After Fay, Nong stayed nearby, eventually earning her fashion degree from the Massachusetts College of Art.
Nong’s career has taken her from fashion hotspots across the United States and home again. After college, she stayed in Boston, selling her designs at local boutiques. She seized the chance to design a show for the Boston Ballet, and in 1993, she was named Best Avant- Garde Designer by Boston Magazine. Moving to New York City placed Nong in the orbit of celebrity clientele. She worked for South African designer Marc Bouwer, helping to create gowns for Angelina Jolie, Toni Braxton, and Whitney Houston. She also started gaining experience as a stylist pulling together looks for photoshoots. Finally, Nong moved to Los Angeles and opened her own boutique, Maduzi, where she specialized in custom-designed clothing for celebrities and stylists. “Everybody came through the store,” recalls Nong, who dressed celebrities from Olivia Wilde to Jennifer Love Hewitt and Mindy Kaling. Nong discovered a talent for finding the synchronicity between client and fashion. “The key is you should feel good in what you are wearing.”
When her parents passed away, Nong returned to Thailand for the services and started to feel the pull of home. She felt the time was right to return. “I had been living in the United States for so long, and I wanted to come back and get to know my family better,” she says. The Thai fashion industry also presented new opportunities. “It would be easier to launch my own line here with easier access to seamstresses, fabrics, and trends than in L.A., where everything is so expensive.” Seven years later, Nong is still happy to be back home. “I’m in the land of beauty everywhere you turn. We have mountains, beaches, sun, and ocean.”
Nong’s experience with every facet of the fashion industry made her the perfect judge for the launch of Project Runway Thailand. Nong’s friend, fashion designer Tawn Chatchavalvong, who plays the Tim Gunn mentor role on the new show, asked Nong to help pick the first fifteen contestants. In addition to finding the big personalities that would make the show entertaining, Nong was able to identify the designers who would have the technical skills to be successful. “You have to be able to construct, make patterns, and sew on the show, and because I have experience at an international level, I can judge from that perspective.”
After a brief hiatus during COVID, Nong is also relaunching her limited- edition Love Nong collection. As the world opens up again, she sees a market for her unique design sensibility, which she describes as “easy care and easy wear for women who maintain active lifestyles.” Most of her designs are shake- and-wear with no ironing needed, and her latest line of chiffon dresses is designed to transition easily from active daytime use to evening wear. “I love chiffon—it works so well in warmer, more humid climates, like Thailand. But it is versatile and works in a variety of climates and settings,” she says. “I’m so excited for this next phase and looking forward to expanding more.”

Want to learn more about Fay? Fill out the form below.

main number 508-490-8250
admission 508-490-8201