Meet the designer with a love for Thai textiles
Part-time fashion buyer and designer, Parissara Na Phatthalung partakes in the revival of Thai textiles with her passion project turned business. In late 2016, the founder launched her eponymous clothing line to share her love for traditional handwoven textiles.
After studying fashion design in Florence, Italy, Parissara returned to her tropical roots to apply her newly acquired knowledge with a renewed purpose in her homeland. She set out to reintroduce Thai handwoven textiles to a younger generation, aligning this with reemerging sustainability practices in the industry. Now into its fourth year, Parissara has expanded despite being a one-woman team. The brand today consists of a community of partner seamstresses and local textile businesses.
An eye for Thai
Modern production lines have made the Thai textile industry something of a lost art form. Parissara observed this loss and built her brand with the intention of bringing back the distinct physical style and ephemeral quality to hand-woven fabric, which she fondly describes as timeless beauty.
When it comes to the local fabric Parissara chooses from, “you can tell by its signature Thai pattern,” she remarks. “We have various styles of fabric depending on its location and community,” Parissara says, explaining the significance of a piece of fabric’s origins that alter its quality and designs.
“Our locals usually draw inspiration from their surroundings as well as from nature, which is why a lot of these [textile patterns and prints] have flowers and animals portrayed in geometric shapes.”
Parissara designs take on a more minimal and modern approach as a brand that consciously caters to contemporary audiences. She opts to cut from geometric flower prints and plain fabrics in varying shades of colours to make the textiles more wearable and complementary to her customers’ existing wardrobes.
A threatened industry
As in numerous parts of the globe, the traditional textile industry has long been underappreciated because of commercial demands and industrialisation in recent decades. Thai artisans struggle to maintain their age-old livelihoods in this day and age.
“It takes quite a lot of time to produce a single fabric. These delays can cause brands that rely on them a lot of problems,” she explains. Traditional handwoven textiles undergo a time-consuming process and don’t enjoy the same quality control and consistency which commercial factories can churn out in triple the speed and precision.
The premium on handmade goods has also been a setback for textile communities. “Handmade pieces are quite pricey. However understandable, most people still go for more affordable items.” And lastly, the very design of the traditional textiles have become less popular to customers. “They can look quite outdated,” she explains as most textile producers were from an older generation and are less likely to keep up with fashion trends.
The challenge to adapt and appeal to contemporary customers have led to disappearing communities. Younger members have turned away, opting to discontinue their family legacies.
“It takes a lot of patience to pursue this kind of work and if they’re not able to feed their families, naturally these artisans will have to find other forms of occupation or move to bigger cities in search of alternative sources of income.”
By the beach, for the beach
A few years ago, Parissara connected with some artisans in provinces across Thailand. Eventually, she came across others who shared the same vision to keep the artisans’ wisdom and trade alive. Most of the brand’s fabric has been sourced from Chiang Mai and other parts of North and North-East Thailand. “I sometimes go to the village, spend time with them, and learn how to weave.”
Parissara’s design process is flexible. Sometimes she sketches a design then sources a handwoven fabric to complement her idea. Other times she stumbles on a fabric she loves and designs garments to showcase it accordingly. She is however constantly inspired by her time at the beach and out at sea. The brand has created resort wear inspired by the island and for the island.
“Imagine using natural fabrics for resort wear,” Parissara says. “Resort wear needs to be comfy and friendly to the skin. It shouldn’t be too hot or you’ll get sweaty. So I mostly use cotton, silk, and recently linen.” And as the artisans continue to live in tune with natural materials and resources, the process includes natural dyes. “We experimented with parts of plants and flowers to see their colours and effects on the fabrics.”
A call to love your own
Apart from operating online, Parissara has a store in Ritz Carlton, Krabi. In the near future, she hopes to become more active online and eventually expand into European locations and cater to more beachgoers. While the brand appeals largely to international customers from around the globe, spanning from Australia and Japan as well as Russia and Germany, Parissara wishes that more Thais would embrace their local crafts and products.
She notices that trends in the Thai fashion industry have been changing. “I think small, independent brands will keep coming up. People are also becoming more conscious of the clothes they’re wearing.” Parissara adds, noticing that now there’s more variety of goods and brands to select from.
“The community is getting smaller every day, but by making more consumers aware and conscious, the tradition of handwoven textiles will stay alive.”
Parissara is available at The Ritz Carlton Reserve in Krabi, Thailand. For more information on the collections, visit https://parissara.com/.