A group of top Thai fashion designers paid a visit to local weavers this week in the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon to share their experience on how to turn traditional woven cloth into high-end products.
Their advice was part of a royal initiative launched by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya, who has long had a keen interest in traditional Thai cloth.
She is determined to revive and popularise traditional textiles and help weavers earn better wages and improve their living conditions, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother.
The princess and the team of designers went to Baan Pa Toom-Pa Tai Museum in Khok Sri Suphan district on Monday. The museum was founded in 2015 by the SUPPORT foundation to preserve the traditional textile wisdom fostered in the province.
"The designers and I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of projects launched by the princess for the past four years. We are delighted to be a part of these," said Polpat Asavaprapha, the creative director and founder of Asava fashion house.
He said the princess wanted to promote sustainable designs and support the use of naturally dyed colours and natural materials for weaving clothes, so villagers can create more value and earn more income nationwide.
The princess spent half a day in the museum to meet local weavers from 22 groups whose hand-woven fabrics have been certified as One Tambon One Product (Otop) goods by the Community Development Department (CDD) of the Interior Ministry.
"Naturally dyed, coloured fabrics are a huge trend in the fashion industry worldwide. When combined with high weaving skills and natural cottons, villagers can raise the image of their products to produce premium work," he said.
Award-winning fashion designer Wisharawish Akarasantisook, owner of the WISHARAWISH brand, said consumers pay more attention to clothes made from local materials, which is in line with the global trend as well as the Thailand-endorsed Bio-Circular and Green Economy (BCG) model.
The princess-led project also promotes raw materials from nature and those found in local communities, he said.
He said the princess has inspired local weavers to preserve the old wisdom of using naturally dyed colours while helping them innovate and adopt more modern designs to improve their weaving patterns.
One popular pattern is the royal "Khor Chaofah Sirivannavari" motif, represented by the letter "S". Royal support helps keep the use of traditional fabrics and old wisdom alive, he said.
Kannika Suwanchan, 49, the chairwoman of Pha Khao Ma's Ban Khua Khai Group in Wanon Niwat district, expressed her appreciation for the royal visit, saying it was a rare chance for local weavers to get direct advice from top designers.
Their recommendations were useful in sharpening their direction and improving their woven clothes to differentiate their products from others, she said.
"My group started using natural materials a while ago, and we can sell our products for higher prices while demand is also increasing," she said, adding the CDD also sent their officials and experts to help train villagers in the use of naturally dyed colours and to improve the designs of their products.
"We learned a lot, and now we also know how to improve our skills after joining the CDD training. The advice we got from the top designers this time makes our direction clearer," she added.
Wandee Khunchornyakong Juljarern, president of Ministry of Interior's Ladies Association, said the princess has shown her formidable talent in the arts by combining traditional and modern wisdom while also helping to maintain each local community's distinct identity.
She said the princess has also helped to make traditional cloths suitable for people to wear for all occasions based on the concept "Fun with Thai Fabrics" (Pha Thai Sai Hai Sanuk). The project has improved local people's living conditions and boosted sustainability in many villages, she noted.