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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

Tradition meets contemporary creativity at Thai silk event

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, back row centre, with designers, supporters and organisers at the 3rd International Thai Silk Fashion Week to mark Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother's 90th birthday. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Two of the world's most renowned fashion designers -- Jimmy Choo and Rocco Barocco -- have expressed their views about Thai silk which they say has the potential to prosper on the world stage.

Both designers attended the 3rd International Thai Silk Fashion Week to mark Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother's 90th birthday, held Dec 7-11 at Royal Paragon Hall, Siam Paragon.

The event was organised by the Office of the Permanent Secretary, the Prime Minister's Office, in association with the Association of Thai Silk and Culture Promotions.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, Mr Choo said he was impressed by Thai silk and the fashion show.

"This event has gathered many world-renowned designers and will be a great source of power to extend the fame of Thai silk across the globe," he said.

Mr Choo said the event was an excellent opportunity for designers to create a global network and exchange their ideas not only on their cultures, experiences, and education but their inspiration and creativity.

"The most important thing is this event being a great venue to promote Thai silk and help the local community which weaves these beautiful textiles to earn the money supporting their family and community," Mr Choo said.

"In other words, fashion and textiles can be a tourist attraction bringing in foreign income to the nation," he said.

Aside from monetary value, Mr Choo said the fashion show was a meaningful way to exhibit the craftsmanship and local wisdom that has been handed down from generation to generation, adding that a fashion designer's responsibility is to maintain such wisdom through their creativity.

"As we can see, currently, the wisdom in weaving such silk, like Thai silk, is starting to fade as the younger generation may have lost interest in such things. So, it is the role of us, fashion designers, to help create new styles, tell the story and significance of such wisdom through our work," he said.

Mr Choo explained why his brand Jimmy Choo has reached great heights in the high-end shoe market.

"Our brand is expensive because of the craftsmanship, and it became globally famous not only because of the quality but due to the art and dedication we put into our shoes," he said.

As the founder and lecturer at his own UK fashion school JCA Academy, Mr Choo said education should inspire younger generations to help further local wisdom and develop it for the world stage.

He added that he'd spoken with the founder of the Association of Thai Silk and Cultural Promotion and that he wanted to visit young fashion designers to promote Thai silk further.

"I hope, one day, to come back to Thailand and talk with young Thai designers and inspire them to understand the origins of Thai silk and for them to tap into their local wisdom," he said.

Jimmy Choo

Italian fashion designer Rocco Barocco, owner of the "roccobarocco" brand, said he was impressed with the quality and versatility of Thai silk.

"I am very impressed with how it can be worn anytime -- from morning to evening. Furthermore, I do not think Thai silk is only for old people. Thai silk is for everyone. I think the perception of Thai silk as reserved for old people may be from the word 'silk' itself," Mr Barocco said.

"In Italy, the silk products here and there are different. In Italy, a shop does not differentiate the type of silk or its origin. They generalise it as silk regardless of where it comes from," he said.

Mr Barocco said some younger designers might not be interested in Thai silk because they may be concerned only about the practicality of clothesmaking and the accessibility of raw materials.

"I think, to make them interested in Thai silk, it is necessary for these young designers to design the products for their own generation," he said.

He said this was his first time working with Thai silk, and despite its versatility and quality. However, the total length of Thai silk was not long enough to be applicable to produce a wide range of goods and products, he added. To enter the global stage, Mr Barocco suggested, silk weavers need to use technology to assist their production.

"I see great potential for Thai silk to enter the global arena, but I'd like to suggest that producers need to produce much longer pieces of fabric as some costumes and clothes or products require lengthy pieces of fabric to make," he said.

"It's good to preserve traditional silk-making methods but it's better for them to use technology to support their products. To be successful on the world stage, you can't rely solely on handweaving. If technology can make the best-quality cloth, why not use it? It not only helps ensure the quality of productions but also, as many traditional weavers pass away, but it also continues their legacy and wisdom."

Rocco Barocco
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