Clothing brands taking a stand on social issues
Long gone are the days when clothes were simply a means of covering oneself. These days, the worlds of fashion and social issues are starting to interweave to raise awareness about important matters. Guru takes a look at five fashion brands that are tackling pre-conceived notions head-on.
Demand for well-fitting apparel for the transgender community has been growing steadily over the years. But Thai producers have not been able to keep up with it, especially when it comes to shoes. In Thailand, the average female shoe size is 38 and the largest sizes available are usually 41 or 42. So, quite often, it can be difficult for transwomen to get shoes that they like at most women's shoe stores if they wear a size 43 or larger.
(Photos: Tichin Nintha)
Designer Tirapat Rojpanyakit, who has experienced this difficulty first hand, took the matter into her own hands. This resulted in Tichin Nintha. "I began this brand after facing my own struggles finding shoes that fit. For a long time, I was unable to walk into a shoe store and buy a pair of shoes, in my size. I would often have to buy shoes from overseas websites. With these unpleasant past experiences and an educational background in fashion, it seemed natural to me to create a fashion brand that would not only fulfil my own need for products that fit me, but also the needs of people of all genders and sizes. I do not think that shoes need to be gender-specific. They should be fluid enough to be worn by anyone in any outfit and still look good. My shoes are made to be worn by people of any gender and size. They are shoes that are fit for all," Tirapat says, of her collection where sizes range from 34-48.
Visit fb.com/tichinnintha, Line ID @tichinnintha.
Heartist has created a platform for individuals with learning disabilities to express their talent and take an active role in the arts. Brand founder Waritsaruta Maisang believes that this can lead to them being included deeper into society.
The brand was founded in 2017 when Waritsaruta volunteered in the Arunothai Special Needs Project. The project brought together children with disabilities and their mothers, to participate in a therapeutic fabric weaving programme, which led to improvement in the children's behaviour, life skills and self-esteem, while reducing their stress.
"The mothers who were participating told me that their children were benefiting from weaving because they were learning a new skill and improving their concentration. They also were beginning to gain a sense of self-worth. I thought that everyone deserves to have a strong sense of self-worth even without having to participate in such activities."
Waritsaruta wants to change the archaic mindset about people with disabilities, which is that they are helpless and not capable of accomplishing much. She is also very proud of their work. This is in contrast with many in Thai society, who often attribute little value to products made by individuals with disabilities. People who do buy them tend to do so out of pity.
"Customers should buy the products because they like them and can appreciate their high quality, not out of some moral obligation. We want to create bags that are elegant, functional and unique. We strive to present our beautiful, special fabric to customers in its best form," Waritsaruta says.
Heartist bags are handmade by the children using hand-woven fabric and each one usually takes between four to six months to complete. There are colour options and unique patterns that customers can choose from. No two bags are the same.
Do you remember looking at all your friends during the morning assembly time at school and thinking about how each person looks exactly like everyone else? Here is someone who wishes that students in the morning assembly of the future look around and marvel at how diverse his/her friends are. His name is Tin Tunsopon and his vision is embodied in Post-Thesis.
"In university, I gave my professor a list of topics that I was interested in doing a thesis about. One of them was uniform culture and its history in Thailand. After some discussion with my professor, this became the topic of my thesis submission. However, I was still bound by certain restrictions such as producing a thesis that would gain the best results, as well as complying to the school and professor's limitation. I graduated with these ideas still fresh in my mind. So, I decided to explore them and this led to the brand that reimagines what uniform could look like."
The pieces that Tin has produced aim to trigger creativity in the uniform-wearing population. "I look at Post-Thesis as a platform to reimagine existing norms and inject diversity into it," Tin says. All the clothes still have references to the traditional uniform in terms of colours and overall shape, but most of the details have Tin's spin on them. The idea is to encourage children to experiment and explore their individuality and creative ability. Most of the items need to be pre-ordered.
The Once Project
Jira Chanaboriboonchai realised very early on that he did not want a clothing brand for profit. His main goal is to achieve equality for the blind. Jira grew up witnessing the challenges faced by his uncle and aunt, who are both blind. That experience ignited his desire to help anyone who is visually impaired.
At first, Jira produced T-shirt with sizes and colours in Braille so that visually-impaired customers could browse them. He wanted blind people to be able to mix and match clothes by themselves, just like everyone else. As the business grew, Jira looked towards providing employment for the blind, as well. Today, customers can purchase products that are being skilfully produced by the visually-impaired that include embroidered Polo shirts and blouses.
"Once is a business for society. We hope to encourage a better one by sharing. By doing this, blind people can get closer to equality in society. Society still largely has the view that the visually-impaired do not have that much potential to contribute. I want to change that. By providing more employment to them and motivating others to do the same, we will discover that their potential is far greater than it was thought to be."
Truly (a play on the Thai word thulee, which means dust) explores social consciousness through many aspects of the brand. The attitude is reflected in the logo, the design of its products, as well as its image and promotion strategy. The brand is trying to convey the need to be more conscious of the issues in society. A good example is its Sati shoe collection, where all the shoes have one red and one yellow sole each, representing different political views, with the word "Sati" stamped in the centre of each sole. The message being that people of different views can recognise each other and still "walk" together.
Even the symbolism reflected in the brand's logo is related to social consciousness. The top circle represents the circle of life, the bottom one signifies a man's ego, while the sideways figure eight represents infinity. When looking at as a whole, it looks like a picture of someone meditating. That is probably the biggest indication of the brand's philosophy regarding consciousness.
All of its products are fit to "wear to work", and this is why we see that the brand does not use professional models or celebrity ambassadors to promote its products. Brand owner and one of Thailand's leading photographers, Chardchakaj Waikawee prefers to capture images of real-life labourers wearing his products as he feels that fashion has been removed from the layperson's day-to-day experience and often not practical for heavy-duty hard work.
Apart from shoes, Truly's website includes T-shirts, jeans, helmets and bags. Each of them is loaded with meaning while being functional.