From Balenciaga’s Sampeng market-inspired striped tote and Marni and Kate Spade’s OTOP-style woven summer bag to Hermes' banana leaf clutch and Dior’s hill tribe-inspired crossbody bag, it's obvious Thailand's humble everyday items are a rich source of design inspiration for high-end fashion houses. While these items have been met with plenty of amusement, they’re also a good reminder for us to see the value in our traditional artisan goods. Below are the five local brands who have seen just that by putting their modern and creative spin on Thai handicrafts, without the ridiculous price tags.
What: With her love for Thai desserts and an eye for design, Kanita Kaniyomwakin, owner and designer of Kanita, creatively blends the unique craftsmanship of banana leaf-wrapped Thai dessert packaging with leather. The result? Killer small and large leather goods like the Khanom Tien and Khanom Sai Sai coin wallets, Khao Tom Mad key purse and Khanom Jak stationery bag. Oh and ladies, do check out their “Wan-Phen” handbag collection inspired by the krathong, which is sophisticated enough to wear from day to night.
Prices: B520 for Khanom Sai Sai coin wallet to B7,500 for Wan-Phen Clutch
Available at BACC Shop, 5/F, BACC, 939 Rama 1 Rd., 086-797-7148. Open Tue-Sun 10am-9pm. www.facebook.com/KanitaLeather
What: When it comes to inhalers, there’s more to it than the shove-up-your-nose Poy-Sian sticks found at 7-Eleven. These traditional herbal inhalers from Anona are hands down some of the most attractive Thai herbal alternatives available on the market. The packaging takes its cues from the giant characters from the Thai epic Ramakien—Tossakan in green, Tapanasoon in red, Sahasdeja in white and Virulhok in blue—while the inhalers are made from more than 10 natural Thai herbs available in lemongrass, wintergreen, Thai lime and peppermint aromas. Who would have thought a local home remedy could look this cool?
Prices: B159 each, except for Thai lime, which is B169.
Available at G/F, Eathai, Central Embassy, Phloen Chit Rd., 092-696-4549. Open daily 10am-10pm. www.anonathailand.com
Beehive Art-icle Rare
What: If you want to get your hands on a “hip version” of the humble Sampeng market shopping bag, but simply cannot, for the life of you, splash out thousands of dollars on Balenciaga’s “Bazar” totes, then these Yamfang bags from Beehive Article Rare may be your best option. Beehive’s version of the colorfully striped bag comes in a compact size with a range of design options, from prints with auspicious messages like “chokdee” (good luck) and “rungreung” (prosperous) to the cheeky Marilyn Monroe “Nang Kwak” iconography.
Available at 1/F, The Selected, Siam Center, Rama 1 Rd., 081-657-8417. Open daily 10am-10pm. www.facebook.com/BeehiveArticleRare
What: This fashion and lifestyle brand is all about giving modern twists to Thai traditional craft items. The designers of VT Thai work together with local artisans to give a contemporary touch to local wickerwork, transforming common village products into charming and glamorous handcrafted bags, apparel and home decor pieces. Their bag collections are the undoubted highlight, offering hundreds of style variations from chic, everyday wicker straw handbags and seagrass backpacks to luxe bamboo briefcases.
Prices: B200-B60,000 for bags and B200-B25,000 for home decor items
Available at 3/F, King Power, Rangnam Rd., 062-935-5614. Open daily 10am-9:30pm. Or order online at www.vtthai.com
What: While many modern city dwellers may perceive pakaoma, the Thai traditional plaid cloth, as outdated, the owners of Pakamian see its value by giving it a fresh spin. The brand creates a wide range of fashionable items and accessories, from scarves, skirts, harem pants, tote bags and clutches to passport cases, luggage tags, notebooks, pillow cases and more. What we like about Pakamian is that their products still retain the spirit of the multi-purpose pakaoma, plus they’re all made from 100-percent cotton.
Prices: B120 for scarves to B520 for soft-case notebook
Available at BACC Shop, 5/F, BACC, 939 Rama 1 Rd., 086-344-5059. Open Tue-Sun 10am-9pm. www.facebook.com/pakamian