It was November 2014 and I was in Bangkok. I had spent the day working with a jeweler on an idea I had for a line of pearl jewelry. With design plans in place, I felt my trip had been a success. Now I had Christmas shopping to do, so I headed out to explore the city!
When I travel abroad, I explore on foot as much as possible. This time it really paid off. I was enroute to a local craft mall when I walked past a shop that caught my attention. The shop was small, not well lit, and filled with bolts upon bolts of silk. It looked very established. There were no “SALE” signs posted and the store front windows were sparsely decorated. I had to get a closer look! As I walked in I was immediately drawn to the racks of colorful Thai silk jackets. Excited to find something unique for myself, I dove in and quickly noticed no two jackets were the same.
I had no intention of adding a line of Thai silk to my collections, but these jackets were spectacular! They were made with such attention to detail, quality silk, unique color patterns, and some were hand painted.
I spoke with the shop owner and couldn’t help but ask if these were imported. I wanted to know exactly where they came from! With a look of surprise, in his broken English, he said “no, no, upstairs, come.” He led me to the back of the shop, and up two flights of stairs. Along the way there were more bundles and bolts of silk. I had never seen so much silk!
Finally we reached the top floor, he opened a door, and there in a large air conditioned room were several ‘dressmakers’ cutting cloth, ironing seams, and sewing. One artist was drawing designs on paper to be embroidered, and another was painting golden accents on a large piece of silk spread over a table. I loved the custom work being done in house!
A few minutes later I returned to the store and met a customer from Myanmar who buys silk for her retail store in Yangon, Myanmar. She told me the women there use the silk to wrap around their waist and make a skirt, or what is more traditionally known as the longyi.
Convinced I had discovered a real treasure, I continued perusing the racks of jackets. At one point I selected a jacket to try on but quickly learned it was part of an order waiting to be delivered to a boutique shop. So…not everything on the racks was available for sale!
Over the next two days I selected several of the silk jackets in a range of colors and designs. Some were hand painted, some fully lined with silk, but each and everyone was perfectly sewn. Each jacket looked like it had been made to order for someone special. There were no tags or labels inside, only the use of a tape measure to know the exact size.
Since my first encounter with this shop I have returned several times and each time selected new styles. In 2015 the shop added a line of ‘cut work’ Thai silk embroidery jackets. They are beautiful! And when I saw the labor required to create this ‘cut work’ I had a whole new appreciation for the art. In fact, I was so taken with the beauty and depth of this fabric that I began to research where the technique originated. I was fascinated to learn ‘cut work’ may have originated as early as the 12th century when nuns used the technique to create adornments for sacramental robes, or for the grave clothes of saints.
The technique involves embroidering a design on tightly woven fabric, then carefully cutting out the ‘cut outs’ without cutting into the stitches which outline the embroidered design. When carefully done the ‘cut work’ fabric looks like lace. Imagine an entire jacket made of ‘cut work’. Yes, we have that! Amazing work, not often seen. These are the things we love to offer you from Cashmere & Pearls.