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. Thai silk is as entrenched in Thailand’s culture as Muay Thai, Pad Thai and the Tuk Tuk. It’s not surprising that Thai silk is one of the most sought-after souvenirs in the Kingdom of Thailand.
What is Thai silk?
Thai silk is a type of silk produced from the cocoons of Thai silkworms. Most of the Thai silk is produced in Khorat, in northern Thailand, where weavers raise caterpillars on a diet of Mulberry leaves.
Thai silk fabric
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.
Here is everything you need to know about Thai silk.
Where to buy real Thai silk in Bangkok
Genuine silk material is available in an eye-catching rainbow array of plain colours, as well as a variety of rich geometric patterns favoured by Thai royalty.
A classic Thai silk design pattern has gold embroidery and elephant motifs. Thailand’s love affair with the elephant is often reflected in the material designs.
1- Jim Thompson’s Thai Silk Company
Jim Thompson’s Thai silk company has four floors of high-quality fabric with Bangkok’s largest selection of colours and designs.
While in Bangkok, it’s worth visiting one of Jim Thompson’s outlets to touch and feel the quality of Thai silk on offer. The Jim Thompson Thai silk scarf price might be a bit higher than other places but you know you’re getting a quality product.
Jim Thompson’s Factory Outlet is the place to shop for Thai silk in Bangkok.
The Jim Thompson 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.
Thai silk fabric here is measured by the meter. One-ply silk is suitable for Thai silk shirts; two-ply silk for Thai silk dresses or Thai silk jackets, and four-ply silk for Thai silk suits. Of course, being a top of the range store for Thai silk, the cost of silk fabric isn’t the cheapest.
2- Shinawatra Thai silk
Thai silk feels luxurious and has a shiny finish. At Shinawatra Thai Silk, the most popular colour is the iridescent two-toned shocking pink, which looks either pink or orange as it catches different angles of light.
Shinawatra Thai is a Thai-owned company from Chiangmai, in Thailand’s north.
The store has a home furnishings section where you can have your Thai silk curtains made in a week.
It has high-quality silk products and an extensive menswear section which sells quality silk ties, men’s shirts, boxer shorts, pyjamas and robes. It’s a good place to pick up a Thai silk shirt, Thai silk scarf or have a Thai silk dress made to measure as a quality momento of your visit to Thailand.
Two-ply Thai silk costs from 850 Baht/$21.50 per meter. If you’re interested in tailored clothes, a simple short-sleeved Thai silk 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 lunchtime and your garment is delivered to your hotel that evening.
If you have the time, you could buy 3.5m of material for 2550Baht/$65 and try your bargaining skills with one of the many tailors in Bangkok.
3- Narai Phand
Thai silk material at Narai Phand is sold by the yard. Two-ply costs 535Baht/$15 per yard and four-ply costs 875Baht/$22.
They have a variety of Thai silk jackets, Thai silk ties, Thai silk scarves, Thai silk cushions and some of the best Thai silk hats in town. Thai silk dresses are a little harder to buy off the rack.
How much is Thai silk?
Pure Thai silk fabric costs anywhere between US$15 to US$70 per yard depending on whether it’s two-ply or four-ply. Two-ply costs at least US$15 per yard and four-ply costs from US$22 per yard. Imitation Thai silk is far cheaper as the fabric may be mixed with other types of fabric.
From the humble silkworm, 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