Thailand's got superb talent in design, and the push is on to give it global prominence
THREE POPULAR annual trade fairs – BIFF & BIL, BIG+BIH, and TIFF – were combined for the first time last October into one massive event that clocked up Bt3.5 billion worth of sales among 52,000 visitors from around the world. The figures aren’t in yet for the second edition, “Style April 2018”, which just ended yesterday, but it was another major success.
Hosted by the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Inter- national Trade Promotion, the mega-fair pooling design talent in fashion, housewares and furniture took place at Bitec in Bang Na.
The department’s “Talent Thai” project, inaugurated in 2004, has seen plenty of impressive lifestyle products designed by young, creative minds. But what’s still in short supply is the long-term support to ensure them a place in the international market.
The designers have plenty going for them, including common ground and shared values, such as concern for the environment, giving heritage crafts a modern twist, and developing new materials.
Nawat Saksirisilp and Korawut Kanchanabunmalert of the home-decor brand Moreover have devised a way to “soften” hard materials like steel – by folding them as if they were paper, in the style of Japanese origami.
Nawat likens each piece to a work of art crafted to enhance the home in harmony with various styles of interior design.
“We like to explore creative functions,” he says. “We see more and more in the designs, and that’s why we named the brand Moreover.
“For example, our new Season collection takes its inspiration from the beauty of nature and the changing seasons. The way sunlight is reflected in water in the summer is literally ‘mirrored’ in our small accessories, pens, rings and so on. We have the Early Bird key holder and the Winter Forest can hold necklaces, earrings and more.
“We’ve tried to capture the outdoors in indoor items by combining multiple materials, including metal, wood and stainless steel.”
Another Bangkok-based brand, Nympheart, transforms salvaged wood – pieces of no use to woodworkers – with fine craftsmanship and clever applications.
Teerapol Tanamontal and Pleankan Traikhumpun, both King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Latkrabang architecture graduates, build jewellery, clocks and cases for mobile phones.
“Salvaged wood like driftwood isn’t hard enough to make into furniture,” says Teerapol. “But I apply furniture-design technique while using epoxy cement that's normally used to fix holes in furniture. I can create a new form of accessories retain the wood’s natural grain patterns, so they’re really one-of-a-kind products.
“The challenge is that everything is made by hand and you need very skilful woodcraft, and that makes the process expensive. The finishing is also difficult due to the natural curves in the wood, but it has to seamlessly fit the different shapes of our designs.”
Worrachai Siriwipanan of Basic Teeory has been making eco-friendly jewellery out of paper since 2014 and now sells his wares at Siam Discovery and has several foreign customers.
“I got into jewellery design because I found what was on offer in the market boring, but I also believe that everything around us has value. So I decided to use materials that are usually overlooked, and first I tried many different types of reused materials, thinking that making jewellery out of paper would be impossible.
“But paper’s weakness turned out to be its selling point. I use a coating technology that makes the paper jewellery more durable, even if it gets wet. I use several techniques, such as folding and cutting, to create necklaces, bracelets and earrings, but I’ve found that rolling the paper tightly into beads is quite promising, and you can have a lot of fun stringing them together.”
In one day Worrachai can make 300 to 500 beads. Each necklace takes 120 to 150 beads. His latest collection, “New Eyes of Memphis”, evokes the art of the 1970s, with the beads painted by hand to create textures as well as colours.
Kajee Wongpanich and Sukanya Amornpraphatheerakul’s Mirror Mirror, another brand that’s internationally recognised, recently presented a showcase in Paris. It’s fine jewellery in food themes – a lobster earring, bangles that look like packets of chocolates, brooches like crisps, and others.
Brands Patipian and Nuaynard both delve into Thailand’s long and envied heritage of craftsmanship with modern product designs that re-imagine their roots.
Specialising in home decor, Patapian takes its name from a traditional toy – a fish made of woven plant fibres. Varongkorn Tienparmpool and Supattra Kreaksakul share a passion for art and weaving and combine excellent craft
skills with contemporary aesthetics. The Snail Mirror collection that put them on the map extrapolates on the movement of a snail, creating overlapping geometric forms.
“We tend to get our inspirations from everyday experiences,” Varongkorn says, showing a set of hanging lamps. “This idea came from the phra prang, the beautiful corncob-shaped pagoda seen at some temples. I’ve woven plant fibre and added copper and brass to create a new material, and it’s all woven up from bottom to top in the same way Thais walk around the pagoda when making merit.”
At Nuaynard, Nanpat Poonsawat, Pakasit Netnakorn and Pattrawan Sukmongkol make soaps, fragrances and skincare products by hand using only natural resources, such as fresh rainwater and spring water.
Based in the village of Baan Sub Sri Chan in Nakhon Ratchasima, Nuaynard enjoyed considerable success with its Chuen Jit-Chuen Jai collection inspired by traditional Thai fragrances.
They aim to revive the wisdom of the past in skincare products, such as the cooling, cleansing cologne nam ob, made of rainwater and herbs.
“This is part of our commitment to the rural community and local efforts to use sustainable resources and create a modern strategy for earning income,” says Nanpat.
Interest is increasing in pet products. Several dedicated brands have arisen that are designing clever and compassionate items, such as Sunday Dog, which creates dog houses unlike any you’ve ever seen before – comfy, modern and easy-to-clean structures that fold up like origami.
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