By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
TWO OF the newer bright lights on the Thai fashion-jewellery scene – Sarran Youkongdee of the Sarran label and jeweller Tharinee Sribenjachote of Tharis – recently unveiled fresh collections in Bangkok.
Sarran showed his new creations at Club 21, the multi-label store at the Erawan Bangkok, impressing viewers with his “Siam Rattikarn” (“Siamese Night”) collection.
MR Kukrit Pramoj’s beloved novel “Four Reigns” and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s song “Tao Hay”, which imagines angels looking down on Siam from Heaven, provided the inspirations.
Passionate about Thai art and culture, Sarran invokes nostalgia by recalling the habit of Thai women in the past to decorate their hair with flowers and use floral extracts as perfume and scented candles and flower sachets to imbue clothing with pleasant aromas.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the traditional ways with which Thai women made themselves attractive, and the more research I did, the more I loved these ideas,” Sarran said.
“My brand concept is ‘Art to wear’, and for this collection I’ve sought to capture the grace and elegance of Princess Dara Rasamee, the favoured consort of King Chulalongkorn. She was the daughter of the ruler of Chiang Mai, so her marriage to Rama V forged an important bond between the two oldest kingdoms in the region.
“In the 1880s Princess Dara was a highly respected royal consort and a cultural representative of the Lanna kingdom, but, unlike other ladies at the time who wore their hair short in the Central Thai style, Princess Dara wore hers long and also dressed in traditional long skirts.”
As deeply as Sarran’s line is steeped in tradition, however, he’s exploring fresh ways of presenting Asian art forms. His jewellery has a deliberate delicacy thanks to the use of unusual materials and keen craftsmanship that reflects “Thainness” in the details.
Each piece suggests a different emotion and story drawn from history. Sarran might be the fashion-jewellery world’s ultimate Siamese storyteller.
He launched the brand in 2013 and is well known abroad, with his accessories being sold in Europe. A former interior designer, he switched to creating jewellery and was soon gaining wide recognition.
Vogue magazine included him in its “Who’s On Next” list last year, Elle Thailand paid tribute in its “Thai Touch” honours the year before, and he’s won both a Good Design Award in Japan and a Demark Thailand award.
In his latest line, Sarran celebrates female “architecture” while bedecking those same women with flowers.
“The Siam Rattikan collection has colours that reflect the current situation – feelings of insecurity when we’re sad,” he said, referring to the mourning period following the death of King Bhumibol. “Meanwhile a Thai woman shows her very unique character when she does handicrafts, or even in her domestic work. It’s graceful and refined. When it comes to jewellery, I think it should have a sort of mobility, moving the body even when she breathes in and out softly.”
Tharinee Sribenjachote’s creations for Tharis offer quite a contrast to Sarran’s conservativeness. She wants to update tradition with modern urban design in fine jewellery, as seen at her store at Gaysorn. Using 18-karat gold, rose gold, diamonds, onyx and other precious stones, she’s apt to question cherished beliefs, even those dating back to time immemorial, and foment a clash between classic ideals of beauty with more modern interpretations.
“I used to buy a lot of foreign name-brand jewellery,” she said. “The designs are beautiful but they’re expensive, and it’s not even always precious material. In my own creations, I liked using the materials of fine jewellery, but adding twists to the traditional designs. And since I believed there were many people who felt the same, I decided about two years ago to create my own brand.”
The aim is to let wearers explore their individual, personal essence in what Tharinee calls “a safe space to experiment with what works best”
“Our standards of excellence demand that we work exclusively with high-grade, premium components, combining meticulous craftsmanship and techniques accumulated over several generations of jewellery-making with a distinctive design direction to forge intriguing, multifaceted pieces.
“In terms of design we simply do reverse-thinking with classic style.”
The debut Tharis collection pursues three concepts.
The pieces in “Confession” acknowledge the belief that, even though life is imperfect, we insist that it be complete in every way.
“We ponder the differences between right and wrong and contemplate how even absolute truths have their boundaries.” The pieces are fiercely asymmetrical, defying unification or simplification, but with a refined beauty “that constantly reminds us what it is to be human: to err, and rise again”.
The “Trial and Error” line alludes to that fundamental approach to solving problems.
“People make mistakes and this is reflected in our thinking process,” Tharinee said. “Sometimes we hit a dead end in our quest, but we find that the journey seeking truth has an aesthetic appeal all its own. Imagine a laboratory where someone is trying to work out the solution to a particularly vexing problem to no avail. As frustration grows, so do the piles of crumpled up note paper.
“So this collection is fuelled by the forms of folds, crumples and wrinkles, with platinum rendered into sheets that suggest the delicacy and vulnerability of paper. Rare gems stand for the light that sparkles at the end of the longest and darkest tunnel.”
And “The Vow” line suggests solemn pledges, such as the “Till death do us part” vow before marriage. It illustrates faith, hope and love in contemporary pieces that represent an undying connection between lovers whose lives are blissfully entwined.
Rings and bracelets are seamlessly fashioned to represent “the commitment of two people who choose to embark on a lifelong journey side-by-side, immortal souls bound by a promise of mutual love and support until the end of time”.