YANGON — With Myanmar emerging as a manufacturing hub for mass-produced clothes, a crop of young designers are using home-grown fashion to preserve the country's sartorial heritage and reshape the sweatshop model.

Inside her boutique in downtown Yangon, Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw crafts her own designs using traditional patterns and fabrics, many from ethnic minority groups, to make A-line skirts, dresses and tops.

On another she adds the high-collared neckline of the inngyi — a tight top usually worn by Myanmar women along with a fitted, sarong-like skirt — to a flirty pleated dress.

Myanmar is fiercely proud of its traditional garb, which was largely protected from the influx of homogenous Western fashion now ubiquitous across Southeast Asia by the former military junta.

For 50 years they shut the country off to foreign influences and tightly controlled what was worn in all official media.

Fashion was particularly politically charged in that era, when many women would secretly ask their tailors for designs that imitated the distinctive style of opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Local media reported the purple outfit she wore the day she was released from almost two decades of house arrest soon became a popular sight on Yangon's streets.

Impoverished but emerging Myanmar is swiftly becoming a new hub for massive garment factories making cheap clothes as quickly as possible for fashion giants like H&M and Primark.

Exports more than doubled to $1.65 billion last financial year, according to official data, and are expected to surge after the US ended sanctions in October.

A recent report by multinational watchdog SOMO warned of "significant risks of labour rights violations being committed in Myanmar's garment industry that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency".