Just walk into any shopping mall or market in Bangkok and you will see rows of silk items, from pre cut dressmaking fabrics to neckties, and cushion covers. While many of the store owners promote their items as “silk”, most are not pure Thai silk but a less expensive mixed fabric.
That’s fine if you’re looking for a low-cost gift, but for the genuine item make sure you buy from an established Thai silk merchant.
Genuine silk material is available in an eye-catching rainbow array of plain colours, as well as variety of rich geometric patterns favoured by Thai royalty.
Thailand’s love affair with the elephant is often reflected in the material designs.
Thai silk merchants
Jim Thompson’s Thai silk company has four floors of high quality fabric with Bangkok’s largest selection of colours and designs.
While it’s not the cheapest place to shop in Bangkok, the brand brings with it an aura of mystery.
Jim Thompson was a New York architect who moved permanently to Bangkok after World War II.
He marketed Thai silk to the world and vanished mysteriously in the jungles of Malaysia in 1967.
Silk fabric here is measured by the meter. One-ply silk is suitable for shirts; two-ply silk for dresses or jackets, and four-ply silk for suits.
Colours of Thai Silk
Their most popular colour is the iridescent two-toned shocking pink which looks either pink or orange as it catches different angles of light.
There is a new home furnishings section where you can have your Thai silk curtains made in a week.
Shinawatra Thai is a Thai-owned company from Chiangmai, in Thailand’s north.
It has two floors of high quality silk products and an extensive menswear section which sells quality silk ties, men’s shirts, boxer shorts, pyjamas and robes.
Two-ply silk costs from 850 Baht/$21.50 per meter. If you’re interested in tailored clothes, a simple short sleeved dress will cost around 8550 Baht/$216 and can be ready in 24 hours.
They measure you in the morning, you return for a fitting at lunch time and your garment is delivered to your hotel that evening.
If you have the time, you could buy three-and-a-half meters of material for 2550Baht/$65 and try your bargaining skills with one of the many tailors in Bangkok.
How much is Thai silk?
Material is sold by the yard. Two-ply costs 535Baht/$13.50 per yard and four-ply costs 875Baht/$22. They have silk jackets, ties, scarves, cushions and some of the best silk hats in town.
From the humble silk worm, Thai silk has developed into one of the world’s most distinctive fabrics. When in Bangkok, it’s worth treating yourself to its lustrous feel, you’ll feel positively regal!
High quality stores usually provide the necessary documentation for travellers to claim the 10% VAT rebate from the Thai government upon leaving the country.
The Thai Silk Company Limited (Jim Thompson), 9 Surawong Road, Bangkok 10500, Thailand, tel: (662) 632-8100.
Shinawatra Thai Co Ltd, 21/190 Moo 3 Sukhumvit 62 Road Bangjak, Prakanong Bangkok, Thailand, tel: +662 331 0220.
Narai Phand, 127 Rajdamri Avenue, Bangkok, Thailand, tel: +662 252 4670