Jim Thompson returns to its roots with vibrant shades dominating its new home decoration collection
CELEBRATING 60 years since its enigmatic American founder Jim Thompson introduced the first collection of hand-woven Thai silks to the world, the brand’s latest collection of home-furnishing fabrics take a cue from its early archives – the days when Thompson revived the Thai silk industry through the introduction of vibrant colours.
The new “Every Colour under the Sun” collection offers more than 300 different shades of plain silks for home decoration, all of them revised from the brand’s treasured resource of more than 10,000 colourways. It was unveiled recently at the world’s premier home-furnishing textile event Paris Deco Off and Jim Thompson was among the 100-plus manufacturers to show its wares at this annual five-day tour of “open houses” straddling both banks of the River Seine.
Jim Thompson’s latest collection of home furnishings “Every Colour under the Sun”
Showrooms were mapped out for Paris Deco Off browsers, or visitors could follow a pathway marked by linen lanterns around the rue du Mail on the Right Bank and Saint-Germain des Pres on the Left. Luxury brands like Pierre Frey, Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gautier and Hermes were represented, as was Jim Thompson, whose shop on the rue de Furstenberg in Saint-Germain des Pres was decorated in vivid silks of vermilion, fuchsia, sunflower, lime green, topaz and turquoise and boasted inspiring window displays in silk laminated with acrylic laser-cuts created by artist Douglas Little whose portfolio includes prestigious brands like Bergdorf Goodman and Van Cleff & Arpels.
Jim Thompson’s Paris showroom in Saint-Germain des Pres is designed with tropical palettes and boasts eye-catching window displays by Douglas Little.
Thompson’s passion for Asian arts and his fascination with Buddhist principles were also on view in another collection called “Bardo”. This featured a fanciful menagerie of dragons, birds and tigers and oriental motifs.
“The brand has a rich archive and many saturated colour shades are no longer produced. I want to refresh the colour palettes that Jim came up with. The shades may be vintage in nature but they are still valid for contemporary decoration. The fabric of Jim Thompson’s first collection had just one-metre width because it was designed for apparel and accessories. That needed to change for home furnishings, where the fabric must be at least 137 centimetres wide. Some patterns that were previously only small scale – suitable for cutting for clothes and bags – are blown up or repeated,” says creative director of home furnishing Noppadol “Ou” Baholyodhin.
“The saturated colours, the sheen and iridescence of traditional hand-woven silk symbolise our brand’s distinctive character,” he adds. “Every process is done in-house from nurturing the silk worms and cocoons, to reeling the yarns, to dying and weaving the fabrics and printing, treating and distributing. Our in-house operation and captivating history adds a level of emotion to the brand.”
Part of the “Every Colour under the Sun” collection, the Asaya series sticks to the classic construction of “Thai Silk 1”, a hand-woven one-ply silk hand spun from the finest threads of the silk cocoon at Jim Thompson’s facility in Pak Thong Chai district of Nakhon Ratchasima. The Khemarin series is heavier, boasting a two-ply plain weave that comes through combining a smooth, thin silk warp with a heavier, slubbed silk weft for a highly lustrous, decadent fabric.
“I like the Khemarin silk series, particularly the one in scarab beetle green. It’s hard to market a vibrant green in such a way that people will want to use it for home decoration but I want to give it a try. After all, Jim managed it 60 years ago when he returned to his native New York with his first collection of Thai silks in complex, saturated palettes. Such strong colours have vanished from the market for the past two decades because people tend to use easy colours for home decoration. But sometimes we need something different and outlandish,” enthuses Ou, 52, who was known as a master of the minimal before joining Jim Thompson firm.
At that time, Thompson, a Manhattan socialite/architect who had recently settled in Thailand, presented his vibrant silk to Edna Woolman Chase, then-editor of US Vogue, who was captivated with the endless array of hues. This single encounter later propelled Thai silk onto the global stage, securing its place in the international textile market and making it popular for couture and luxury interior furnishings in Europe and America.
Gert Voorjans, left, has collaborated with Jim Thompson to lauch a collection of playful vibes as seen in his room set.
The brand is also collaborating with Belgian architect/interior designer Gert Voorjans – a man equally impassioned by vibrant colours – to launch an eccentric collection with references to French and Italian colourists and avant-garde artists. Ranging from upholstery to wall coverings, his lively and refreshing creations combine rustic checked design, traditional Dutch Delftware tiles together with playful patterns inspired by 20th- century arts and a delicate trail of ivy.
“I want to bring European taste to the positive, colourful, flowery, optical and artistic elements,” says Voorjans who is known for his design for Dries Van Noten stores worldwide. “I love to create environments that are richly layered with influences from the East and the West, suffused with colours. I believe that these characteristics relate well to the Jim Thompson style and that is why I think that our collaboration is the perfect match.”
Ou Baholyodhin presented his latest collections at Paris Deco Off.
Ou agrees. “My design has an exotic accent, so I want to add a European viewpoint to the collection. Gert has lots in common with our founder. They are both architects and are passionate about art and colourful palettes. If Jim had born in Belgium, he would have been Gert.”
With their varied patterns and hues, Jim Thompson fabrics can be tricky to mix and match, but its sister brand, No 9 Thompson makes the task easier. This year, its design director Richard Smith has taken inspiration from Henri Matisse’s paper cut collection as well as his travels around the stunning landscapes and seascapes of Greece and melded them with traditional motifs.
Two years ago, the firm acquired the British brand Fox Linton, which makes high-quality textiles from natural yarns in neutral tones with different textures, perfect for simple but elegant home decoration.
No 9 Thompson
Jim Thompson fabrics have adorned home furnishings sold internationally for more than three decades. The brand also has stores in London, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Florida and Munich and distribution nodes in more than 40 countries.
“Our big markets for home furnishings are the US, France, Britain, Italy, the Middle East, as well as Hong Kong and Singapore. Residents of the US State of Georgia have a long tradition of interior design with fabrics and they pay attention to details in decorating their homes with curtains, trimmings and wall coverings. The tradition is less prominent in Europe while the Asian market focuses more on contemporary design,” says Mai Timblick, director of international sales.
In Thailand, the brand works regularly with the interior designers of hotels and residential projects, among them Park Hyatt Bangkok, Sukhothai Bangkok, Villa Mahabhirom and Shangri-La Chiang Mai. Its retail flagship store on Bangkok’s Surawong Road recently underwent major renovation and entire rooms have been set out so customers can see what’s possible.
“We hope to rejuvenate the brand and change how it’s perceived within the home market,” says Sasaya Buranastidporn, head of home furnishings Thailand. “We want the refurbished showroom to not only inspire but also become a destination for interior designers and homeowner.”
“Since reopening last year, the refurbished Bangkok showroom has been attracting more local consumers. Many of them live in high-end residential projects and come to select their own home textiles. Thais are more interested in interior design, particularly the use of wall coverings, and they are courageous enough to decorate the homes with strong patterns and vivid colour,” adds Mai.
Late last year, Jim Thompson’s flagship store of personal goods at Siam Paragon reopened following a major facelift that underlines the company’s ambition to become Southeast Asia’s first global luxury brand.
“We are a brand of culture,” says chief executive officer Gerald Mazzalovo who previously worked with top brands Ferragamo and Loewe. “We bring some elements of Asian arts to authentic sensibility and luxury but are compatible with the contemporary lifestyle.”
Merchandising has been rationalised too, with the introduction of a seasonal logic, along with more complete men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections and new product lines, including leather handbags, silk and canvas handbags, neckties and scarves.
“Today, the term ‘luxury’ doesn’t mean ‘exclusive’ but ‘exceptional’ because consumers are more discerning and they want to be unique and individual. It’s a major challenge to articulate our identity on the global scene of luxury brands. I’ve set the bar quite high,” says Mazzalovo. “In the next 10 or 15 years, we’ll be the Hermes of Asia.”
In addition to home furnishings and personal goods, Jim Thompson is spreading its wings even further, with plans to open a luxurious Thai-restaurant in downtown Bangkok by the end of this year.
THREADS OF THAILAND
The new collections are available at Jim Thompson’s home furnishing showroom on Surawong Road of Bangkok.
It’s open daily from 9am to 7pm. Call (02) 632 8100, or visit www.JimThompsonFabrics.com.