City Guides |

The Boom in Bangkok

Jason Campbell

From the cheap and cheerful clothing sold in city center street stalls to the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok has long been defined as a shopping destination. At the moment, however, the city is under the spotlight for a well-organized pocket of local designers and a vibrant fashion scene.

At the invitation of the Thailand tourist board, 87 influential journalists and buyers from around the world turned up for Elle Bangkok Fashion Week last month, where the city was as much on display as the designers. Before the Spring/Summer ’13 shows even began, the attendees, comprising local editors and personalities, showed off strong fashion energy from street to chic. Hipster boys were decked in well-chosen toppers, suits with tropical prints on contrasting button-down shirts, selvedge looks done up with broad rimmed hats and footwear from espadrilles to combat boots. Confident girls in bright lipsticks went for ironic prints, short dresses and copious accessories—looks that would not be out of place at Coachella or in East London. Mix in the local penchant for wearing intense colors, the extreme heat and the tropical feeling of this 16 million-population South East Asian city and it makes for a tasty stew of inspiration and target.

As is often the case in secondary markets, the runway collections have yet to catch up to the effortless mix-and-match styles of the streets. The very well established and decades-old Greyhound showed graphic, digital prints in black-and-white and red-and-gray palettes for sleeveless dresses, pencil skirts and monochromatic suits. The Helmut Lang-esque presentation didn’t move the needle but it was great to see the slightly avant-gardist line get interpreted on the streets among its mass followers.

EK Thongprasert, a brand collaboration between Thongprasert and Noon Passsama Sanpatchayapong, has been getting noticed for an inspired accessories line of dramatic rubberized necklaces. The mega neckpieces sell on Moda Operandi, Colette and Liberty, and the label has been one of the de facto cool ambassadors for Thailand. Curated by Thongerpaart, the name of their homegrown apparel line showed an inexplicable parade of ‘50s A-line skirts and kerchief head-cladded models on the runway, which didn’t quite hold up to the directional spirit of the standout jewelry.

Asava, another brand organized to export, went for strapless junior dresses, loads of peplum and high-waisted shorts in black-and-white prints and chevron stripes, mixing coral, black and white alongside a smattering of shimmery floor-length gowns, which rounded out the looks. Senada set its presentation in a smoky cathedral with a pianist playing standards. The collection featured cool floral prints, nicely fitted pencil skirts with clever diaphanous cut outs, shimmery skirts and capelets. Kloset, meanwhile, showed houndstooth metallic fitted pants and skirts at random lengths paired with frilly chiffon blouses with a cloud print. However, the brightly colored dogs and cats that models brought down the catwalk sadly upstaged the collection.

Although the catwalk didn’t show off the best of the designers’ work, what gave relevance to much of what we saw was the support of the standalone stores situated on the ambitious Siam Center mall. There are more than 20 independent designer and multi-brand boutiques on the trendsetting third floor, including EK Thongerpaart, Kloset and Wonder Anotamie. We did not see Wonder Anotamie’s collection on the runway, but the store represents the best on the floor at Siam Center with brilliant alien-looking printed sportswear bombers, shells and shift dresses, lazer cutouts and an impressive use of fabric treatments, which took cues from Givenchy but made the whole printed street effect their own. Chalermkiat Khatikasemlert, Wonder Anatomie is top to bottom conception—the ceiling of his Siam Center boutique is stitched together from skull cut-outs from brown paper bags. The high traffic center is ground zero for youth culture in Bangkok, and thus a hotbed for fashion inspiration.

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