I love shopping Bangkok’s boutiques because I love Thai fashion. Take homegrown brands such as FLYNOW, Theatre, Wonder Anatomie, Tipayaphongpoosanaphong, and Palette – they’re fresh, quirky, colourful, and fun.
And even when Thai fashion is more grown-up and serious, like the elegant evening wear of Asava, for instance, it still features idiosyncratic and often flamboyant details that really set it apart from European, North American or Australian designers.
Thai fashion is also super-affordable. Which is why I can never understand why travellers visiting Bangkok go clothes shopping at MBK for their beach gear, which has probably been mass-produced in a sweat shop. You’re better hitting Chatuchak Markets or Siam Square (which I’ll cover in another post) to buy some casual travelling clothes from young independent designers, and, when you return to Bangkok, buying some souvenir Thai fashion from the boutiques in Siam Centre or Paragon.
So where should you go to buy Thai fashion? These are my personal picks of the best boutiques that are home to Bangkok’s best brands:
ASAVA & ASV BY ASAVA
“Urbane, sophisticated and practical” is how Asava’s designer-owner Polpat Asavaprapha described his main label Asava to me when I interviewed him during Bangkok International Fashion Week (click here and guess which one he is in the gallery of pics), while he described the newish little sister line ASV as “aspirational, approachable and adventurous”. For me, the Asava range is something I’d wear to work if I had a high-powered job I had to dress up for or in the evenings if I was going out for cocktails or somewhere special, while the ASV by Asava range consists of clothes that can be worn anywhere, anytime. Both lines feature clean lines, classic cuts and strong colours. Whichever you choose, it’s all stunning, which is what you’d expect from the suave Polpat Asavaprapha, a former fashion director at Max Mara, New York, who launched Asava, a lifelong dream, in 2008.
Siam Paragon and Paragon department store.
FLYNOW is hip and quirky with a youthful edge that belies its age. Even the more grown-up sub/side-lines FLYNOW GOLD LABEL and FLYNOW BLACK give an edge to glamour that you rarely see when it comes to expensive designer gowns. This is one of Thailand’s pioneering fashion houses (alongside Greyhound and Theatre), established 28 years, yet its more casual label FLYNOW is as fresh and funky as a line a 20 year-old design grad might start just out of fashion school. When I met the label’s main designer, the legendary Chamnan Pakdeesuk, I understood why. This is a man with his finger on the pulse. A resident of London for many years, now that he’s back in Bangkok he’s keeping busy as the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar.
Siam Centre and Siam Paragon, www.flynowbangkok.com
I know. Don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either. Thankfully, the lovely designer likes to be called ‘Tip’. I think ‘eclectic’ best describes Tipayaphong Poosanaphong’s ‘his ’n’ her’ brand. He likes to call it ‘ready-to-couture’ or ‘street couture’. While the distinguishing characteristics are good attention to detail, structure, shape (geometric), and form (many pieces are seamless, often made from one piece of cloth) this is a label that can’t be encapsulated in a few words, and one of the reasons is because while Tip does have a singular vision, he has such wide and varying interests that one collection might be completely different to the next, and not only that, but he adds new pieces to it every week. His sister, who runs his Bangkok operation from his Siam Centre store (because he still spends a lot of time in Paris where he did his haute couture internship at Maison Ungaro. Oui!), told me new pieces come into the shop almost every day. I bought a lovely loose top in the pattern of an Arabic keffiyeh, in camel and rust-red; a few weeks later I saw it as a flowing floor-length kaftan! The label is worn by Bangkok’s hi-so and celebs, yet it’s very affordable.
Siam Centre and Siam Paragon, www.tipayaphong.com
This is another legendary Thai label (26 years old), owned and ran by the visionary designer Sirichai Daharanond. He is something of an icon in Thailand although you’d never know it to meet him, as he’s thoughtful, serious and softly spoken. (Or he is when we meet him.) Yet this diminutive man is the architect of grand ideas and the clothes that are currently in his store (launched at the March 2011 Bangkok International Fashion Week), are whimsical, cheeky and capricious. We saw his ‘Garden of Tivoli’ show, where we were served macarons and listened to a live performance of ‘hillbilly jazz’, and it was spectacular. I think anything that this man creates will be interesting, which is why I always love to drop into his store and discover something unusual.
Siam Centre and Central City, www.theatrebangkok.com
Other boutiques I love that you should check out:
Tube Gallery, Siam Centre
Greyhound/Playground, Siam Paragon
27 Friday/27 Nov, Siam Centre (two shops opposite eachother)
Tango, Siam Centre
Wonder Anatomie, Siam Centre
Palette, Siam Centre
It’s Happened to be a Closet, the Emporium
Mob.f , a multi-brand boutique showcasing young designers in Siam Centre
Where to find them:
Siam Centre & Siam Paragon, Rama 1 Road, Skytrain/BTS Siam
The Emporium, Sukhumvit 24, Skytrain/BTS Phrom Phong