Jun 4, 2014

Fashion in Bangkok

Gaysorn Plaza, one of the luxury landmarks in Bangkok.

It's safe to say that when it comes to fashion Thailand is quite a prominent industry player in South East Asia region. Reading about Thai's retail prowess in the blogs all these years has made a personal impression on me. I must say the recent trip to Bangkok has given the perfect chance for me to delve, if only ever so superficially, into the burgeoning fashion atmosphere of Siam. Reading Business of Fashion's article about how uncertain Thailand's future of retail industry due to political turmoil is just the tip of the iceberg. The reality is, indeed, undeniably bleak but as the only Asian country that is never colonised, some local experts take an optimistic view of the scenario. No matter how shaky the situation is, at least I feel grateful to witness a booming Asian fashion empire that harbours both global luxury companies and local designers, all within a close vicinity.

Siam Centre is the first mall that we entered as soon as we alighted from Siam BTS station. I've been meaning to visit the place after reading quite an impressive feature on Monocole somewhen around last year. A refurbished 1970's mall and relaunched in 2012, the new look is rich of contemporary design and oozes creative energy - from the interiors (the top ceiling of one section is literally LED screen showcasing beautiful fantasy-like imagery) to the local designers that predominate the third floor. Yes, the third floor is the place for the crème de la crème of budding and established Thai designers...

The stairs are filled with screens portraying the current promotions/events in the mall. The overall feel is reminiscent of L'Eclaireur's interior 

Greyhound and its sister label Playhound are both on the same floor (Greyhound is the first Thai designer that I got familiar with, with some of the collection present in Tang's Department Store in KL...) Playhound, as its name suggest is more affordable, young and playful in comparison with the trend-forward Greyhound. I wished it was end-of-season sale so that I could get my hands on the beautiful and relatively affordable collections but alas, everything is full-priced and too bad I'm still in the frugal state of mind - trying to discipline myself to save for interiors rather than fleeting trends...

Linear prints on Playhound men's items

Very tactile fabric and modern/classic prints

One of my most exciting Thai fashion discovery during this trip is stumbling upon Dusk Till Dawn (a rather bizarre contrary of the usual dawn-till-dusk phrase). Designed by Pimnutchaya Liptawat, everything looks simple yet quirky. If you've been following Dunia Fashyon for a while you would know that this is just right up my alley. Boxy shape? Checked. Pastel tones with clever use of bold colurs? Checked. Unisex appeal? Checked checked. The SS 2014 collection is dreamy. I had my eyes on the ecru linen extra boxy top (would be a great Raya oufit), but after deliberation (and weighing the price and the itch and heat factor of the fabric) I decided to abstain myself from yet another purchase. Such is the dilemma of a government doctor with a meagre income....

Yat trying on a cool-looking jacket, which incidentally matches his outfit! 

FlynowIII is seemingly a brand that with a collection that puts emphasis on t-shirts with cartoonish prints. The label "has been created as a daughter to its mother brand (i.e. Flynow) to capture young and new exciting customers". Spearheaded by Somchai Songwattana, its amazing to see how Thai brand establishes itself to become a significant label in the regional and international retail scene.

There are also a slew of other independent Thai designers scattered around the third floor. The uniqueness of every store is evident - each shop has their own design, and I would say everyone's trying to outdo each other in terms of decor creativity.

Wonder Anatomie - a collection full of prints, patterns and papers (I also found about this intriguing Thai label on Monocle magazine).

Siam Center is also the cool place to be if you're looking for highly-designed food courts (on the top floor). Eating oriental food could never be this chic .

One of the culinary highlights of Siam Center for the sweet-toothed is Mr Jones' Orphanage Milk Bar. The decor is attractive and playful even to an adult (but beware of the dangerously low mock railway that an unassuming person could possibly knock his head on. Honestly I'm quite picky about my desserts and luckily this place caters for my taste. And my friends liked their desserts and drinks too!
The dessert table is heaven on earth!

Luxury fashion is quite prominent in Bangkok and according to BoF it has the capacity to rival other fashion cities of Asia. But unfortunately the luxury market is targeted towards well-healed tourists (are Malaysians included?) as the higher VAT rate (the overall difference is about 30-40% than in Hong Kong) diverts the wealthy Thais to shop elsewhere abroad.

The opposite Siam Paragon is of a different concept where luxury labels and departmental stores are located. The building design is again, modern and is never seen elsewhere personally, especially the green patches of landscape at the main court, complete with mirrored waterfalls!

A five-minute walk from Siam Paragon via the Skywalk (BTS inter-station connecting walkway) brings me to an entirely different class of neighbourhood. This is the hotspot of the rich. The pinnacle of Bangkok's luxury retail location. Gaysorn Plaza, to me, resembles Galleries Lafayette of Paris, with its high arches safeguarding the opulent fashion stores. At the same vicinity there's also Erawan Hotel, where Club 21 is. Central World is also around the corner (another mall with huge department stores...

Facade of Erawan Hotel, where Club 21 is located

Window display of Club 21 women's

Comme des Garçons' latest offerings at Club21 Erawan Hotel

Diverting from the usual retail therapy I was looking around for Thai-related souvenir and the famous Thai silk came to mind. I was told the Jim Thompson was the place to go for premium silk and contemporary designs, but however I could not locate the store. (the store is apparently nearby our hotel, but travelling sans mobile internet connection just proves my incompetence in searching for directions ha ha!). At the end of the day I stumbled upon a small fabric store at Surawong Road (ironically the red light district is just around the corner). I managed to grab two different fabrics for mum's baju kurung.

My fashion adventure in Bangkok is still incomplete, as time was an issue. Furthermore, travelling with quite a sizeable group meant the need to entertain everyone else's wishes to visit somewhere else (one or two of my travelling buddies are into fashion, but not very so as I am). Nevertheless the experience is invaluable, and I hope that some Thai label procurement is possible in the feature - it would be definitely a great blog material, don't you think?

 text by Hafidzudin Zainal
images by Yat

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