The queen of Thai silk

The queen of Thai silk


Long before the Duchess of Cambridge became an ambassador for the best of her country’s fashion industry, Queen Sirikit of Thailand was using state visits to promote traditional Thai textiles and to revive interest in the traditional material at home.

Her elegant wardrobe, which pushed her to the top of the International Best Dressed List in 1965, included traditional Thai silk gowns and smart Western clothes designed by Pierre Balmain.

Eleven years later, when she established the Support Foundation to promote the production of folk handicrafts, in particular mat mii silk, or ikat, she again turned to Balmain and other international designers to combine the best of Thai and Western styles by creating couture gowns using the hand-woven silk, which is made from tie-dyed yarn.

Some of those couture creations are now on permanent display at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, which opened in May on the Grand Palace grounds in Bangkok.

They include a rich caramel-coloured gown designed by Balmain that she wore in Japan in 1981, made of silk ikat and trimmed with dyed ostrich and chicken feathers, as well as a midnight blue gown designed by Erik Mortensen for the House of Balmain that she wore in 1985 to a dinner in Los Angeles. It mixed silk ikat with crystal beading and metallic silver thread embroidery by the famed Maison Lesage in Paris.

Building on the queen’s example, organisers of the new Siam Paragon International Couture Fashion Week in Bangkok have asked the participating designers to use the silk for a runway presentation in her honour.

“The Queen of Thai Silk,” an invitation-only event held recently, included 27 styles by Christophe Josse of France; Yumi Katsura of Japan; Lie Sang Bong, a Korean designer based in Paris; and Frederick Lee of Singapore. There were also three Thai designers: Chamnan Pakdeesuk of Flynow; Nagara Sambandaraksa for Nagara; and Sirichai Daharanont for Theatre.

“Thai silk has a very unique texture and design,” Daharanont said in an email interview before the event. “It has a certain stiffness and shininess, and as a designer, I would normally use it for sharp tailoring. But this time, I’m focusing on draping and moulage.” He added that he had been inspired by the queen’s outfits during a visit to the museum.

The couture week, held at the Siam Paragon mall, included runway shows by the designers and an exhibition of traditional Thai silk costumes.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox