In the foreword from the book Thai Textiles Trend Book Autumn/Winter 2022-2023 (Volume 2) by HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya, emphasis is placed on the idea of preserving and reviving the royal aspirations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, The Queen Mother.
“I intend to carry on the work and revive the royal aspirations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother, to preserve the cultural treasures of the country,” the Princess writes.
“Much of my inspiration derives from my grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother, who [in the past] visited high mountainous areas in the northern region in order to help improve the quality of life of Thai hill-tribe communities. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother advised locals to plant winter fruits and vegetables instead of opium, which is a highly addictive drug.
During one of her visits, The Queen Mother observed that the hill-tribe communities greeting her were dressed in traditional costumes that reflected the beauty of the traditional crafts of their communities. [It was here that] Her Majesty advised the local hill-tribe communities to weave these fabrics for her, rather than cultivate opium. This inspired me – and later drew me – towards traditional Thai fabrics.”
To preserve valuable cultural heritage for the Thai people – especially handicrafts, Thai craftsmanship, and woven fabrics found in various communities – HRH Princess Sirivannavari thus decided to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother. By combining her work experience with the study of woven cloth and local handicraft products from each region in the country, she has now created a modern iteration of Thai fabrics that responds to the needs of today’s consumers – both domestically and globally.
With HRH Princess Sirivannavari’s ingenuity in designing, and educating, when it comes to Thai fabrics, she has become known for her expertise in this field. In turn, she has used this to inspire and promote the sharing of this knowledge and information within Thai fabric circles. She envisions further developing the heritage of Thai fabrics so that it represents the story and identity of the local culture and can further be used to design and create clothes that can be worn in daily life, and which are suitable for all genders and ages.
Over the years, HRH Princess Sirivannavari has visited communities across the country that are known for their Thai fabrics and local handicrafts. Ever since her first visit in 2020 to the Ban Don Koi Indigo Weaving Group in Phanna Nikhom district, in Sakon Nakhon province, she has had the vision to develop almost 200 such communities.
Her initial visit made an impression on the local communities – weavers in particular – who came to welcome and greet Her Royal Highness. The Princess encouraged local weavers by saying, “If I have work for you, will you be interested?” When the housewives of Ban Don Koi replied that they were ready to work on weaving orders, they received one from Her Royal Highness, along with the insightful comment: “I don’t want you to be idle. I want you to have money to spend.”
Her Royal Highness has been a driving force for the development of all facets of woven fabrics, including quality, weaving techniques, creativity, and patterns. Using natural colours on the fabric before it is made into shirts, bags, and souvenirs, is one reason why the Ban Don Koi community has become widely recognised, and it’s also the reason behind the setting up of the ‘Pha Thai Sai Hai Sanook’ project. This project has helped support villagers suffering from unemployment and a lack of income, due to the impact of Covid-19, allowing them to not just have an income but also to become self-reliant.
DON KOI, A ROLE-MODEL COMMUNITY
From 2020 onwards, the indigo woven fabric produced by the Ban Don Koi community has helped locals to increase their knowledge, and to produce pieces that meet the needs of both Thai and international markets, generating income for people in the community of at least 10,000 Baht per month per household (from an original income of just 700 Baht per month). What followed next was the development of fabrics using other natural dyes, along with the creation of packaging designs for the fabrics – helping them to look more modern and meet the needs of the new generation.
Apart from closely following the progress of the weaving group operations, HRH Princess Sirivannavari continues to offer the craftspeople advice, and sends experts in various fields to share knowledge on how to develop their products further.
The Community Development Department of the Ministry of the Interior established the Indigo Dyed Fabric Learning Center, Ban Don Koi Vijalaya, for multiple purposes, starting with the idea of it being a path for sustainable development, and a valuable resource for weavers of local and provincial woven fabric. However, it’s also a place for the sharing of weaving knowledge, and a place to learn new and innovative methods for those who are interested in incorporating these techniques into their profession.
HRH Princess Sirivannavari has always envisaged a future in which people globally would demonstrate a heightened degree of concern for the environment. Simply having work is not sufficient, she has remarked, adding that villagers have to adapt to keep pace with the rest of the world. Currently, Ban Don Koi’s indigo-dyed weaving group is committed to weaving indigo-dyed fabrics according to the royally bestowed ‘Mad Mi with Princess Sirivannavari’s Hook Pattern’ design.
Her Royal Highness also bestowed a ‘heart’ designed logo [for their products] which signifies the love and unity of the people of the Ban Don Koi community. The aim is to improve the quality of fabric produced by its people, so that theBan Don Koi can become the country’s ‘model community’.
ESTABLISHING THE ‘NAWA MODEL’
HRH Princess Sirivannavari has persevered in her efforts to fulfill the task of continuing a royal commitment initiated by both her grandparents – [the late] His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother – to see that all Thai people enjoy a prosperous life.
The ‘Nawa Model’ project was established to serve as an example for the weaving community, supporting them in their public relations work to promote not just [Thai] fabric wisdom, but also knowledge-sharing, techniques, and methods for making natural fibres and designing costumes from Thai fabric that can be sewn into modern designs, and worn in everyday life by all genders and ages.
During her visit to the Nawa community, HRH Princess Sirivannavari offered both advice and a roadmap to villagers, based on the success of Ban Don Koi and with the intention of rehabilitating and raising silkworms for the project so that weavers can use silkworm fibres to produce fabrics. This would reduce the problems arising from thread shortages, so that weavers can become self-sufficient in creating fabrics.
BESTOWING FABRIC PATTERNS
HRH Princess Sirivannavari has also initiated a unique project for the development of fabric patterns to inspire weaving groups to work on novel designs for market expansion and local consumption, while helping to strengthen the identity of Thai fabrics – constantly supporting its progress.
In 2021, Her Royal Highness designed the ‘Mad Mi with Princess Sirivannavari’s Hook Pattern’, of which every design is filled with meaning. The ‘S’ stands for SIRIVANNAVARI, and the 10 rows of ‘S’ patterns refer to His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua, the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty. Meanwhile, the heart pattern on the edges represents the eternal love she has for Thai people.
In addition to this, the Princess designed the royal pattern fabric ‘Khid with Nareerat Rajakanya’, which was inspired by the ‘Khid cloth with Somdej Pattern’ that appears often in the clothes of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother. The Princess blended the design to create a contemporary pattern with a new identity, representing a profound meaning based on the history and culture of woven fabrics in Thailand.
The ‘S’ pattern on this fabric represents Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother, who is a role model for the conservation of Thai fabrics. Interestingly, HRH Princess Sirivannavari designed it with a space to allow people to weave their own patterns into it, so that it can become a creation unique to each locality. The Khid pattern that has a frame around the ‘S’ signifies the loyalty that Thai people have towards the Chakri dynasty.
The ‘S’ pattern, combined with the Khid design, signifies Princess Sirivannavari’s good wishes for Thai peoples’ well-being, while the pattern of a pine tree indicates royal initiatives by Her Royal Highness in the restoration of arts and crafts projects. This pine tree pattern is woven into the fabric of ‘Ban Nawa’, where the arts and crafts project originated, while the peacock tail pattern on the fabric expresses HRH Princess Sirivannavari’s dedication to carrying on the work of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother, and supporting the conservation and promotion of Thai fabrics within the kingdom.
The Princess has also granted designs for fabrics to all weaving groups, and advised them with the techniques for weaving in accordance with their local identity and values, helping to create an appreciation for local fabrics.
THAI TEXTILES TREND BOOK
With 20 years of experience in the fashion sector, both in Thailand and abroad, HRH Princess Sirivannavari has become adept at recognising the importance of both fashion trends, as well as the trends designers use to develop their designs, in order to create products with high economic value.
When the Princess began the initiative to conserve Thai fabrics, she studied both the theory and practical sides of it thoroughly. She then initiated the publication of the first volume of the Thai Textiles Trend Book Spring/Summer 2022, the focus of which was on Thai fabrics and global fashion trends. This book greatly benefitted designers, entrepreneurs, and weavers in local communities.
As its Editor-in-Chief, the Princess participated in the production of all three volumes, starting from the concept and continuing on to the selection of the photos.
At the launch of Thai Textiles Trend Book Spring/Summer 2023 (Volume 3), HRH Princess Sirivannavari remarked: “Trend Books 1 to 3 can be referred to [when needed]. I want everyone to understand that this book is made in Thailand and can also be used by students for learning. It is a Thai textbook that holds the same value as highly-priced foreign books.
“Everyone can refer to the book for use in their occupation. If used correctly, and with proper understanding, it can benefit the individual. I truly believe it is a source of knowledge that entrepreneurs are earnestly awaiting. As people with the know-how, we will continue to support everyone. For this book, you have to implement it. I truly believe that this occupation will make Thailand prosper. Please make the most of it.”
Equipped with goodwill and intelligence, HRH Princess Sirivannavari is dedicated to carrying out the works and royal aspirations of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother for the conservation of generations-old craftsmanship from local communities. The various projects that have been built from this endeavour have created jobs that generate income for the local people, enabling them to have a better quality of life while at the same time strengthening the economy sustainably.
Hero and featured image: Up close and personal with Ban Don Koi indigo-dyed weaving artists, the Princess continues to support them in developing pieces to meet the needs of both the Thai and global markets