Jo's Bag shop offers unique bags that are fashioned from meticulously hand-made Thai textiles.
By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Sunday Nation
Long-time curator at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Suttirat "Jo" Kaewaporn delights the ladies with a collection of bags crafted from hand-woven textiles
HIS EXPERIENCE as a curator at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles has taught talented designer Suttirat “Jo” Kaewaporn how to bring out the unique characteristics of Thai textiles. He’s put that knowledge to good use too, crafting bags in various sizes that are elegant and sophisticated but also contemporary and casual.
Indeed, his attractive bags fashioned from hand-woven textiles and leather have been whipping up waves since Jo’s Bag got started three years ago, with high-ranking government officials, diplomats’ wives, executives, celebrities and office workers all determined to own one of his creations. Among his regular customers are Naraporn Chan-o-cha, the wife of the Prime Minister Prayut, actresses Sinjai Hongthai and Myria “Nat” Benedetti and singer Jennifer Kim.
“Many of my high-profile customers use my bags on overseas trips and they come back and tell me of the compliments the bags receive. Apparently they catch the eyes of foreign ladies much more than brand-name totes and that serves to open conversations about Thai textiles and cultures. I love sharing knowledge and disseminating information to customers because these people help promote Thai arts and crafts,” he says.
“Khun Nong (Naraporn Chan-o-cha) is known for her gorgeous Thai silk costumes. She frequently selects the textiles herself and asks me to tailor the bags to match her look. While the 9-inch handbag tends to be more popular, Khun Nong prefers the 14-inch size to store her belongings. She is a good ambassador for Thai textiles,” says Jo, a graduate in archaeology of Silpakorn University. Jo is an avid collector of Thai textiles and the idea to fashion a bag from his fabrics started from his love of making personalised gifts for friends and colleagues.
“I have a large collection of embroidered hilltribe fabrics and I thought how good they would look as iPad cases to give as New Year gifts. Everyone loved them and suggested I should make more items and market them. From iPad cases, I expanded to bags and they sold like hot cakes so I decided to start selling the products online via Facebook four years ago. I opened my shop a year later,” he explains.
His shop at JJ Mall next to Chatuchak weekend market offers a large collection of bags in various designs fashioned from mudmee and praewa silks, embroidered hilltribe fabrics, organic kram (indigo) and cotton woven with different techniques to give unique patterns and colours. Jo handpicks these intricately woven textiles from the Support Foundation initiated by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to preserve the country’s arts and crafts and generate more income for villagers. He also offers a selection of dresses, skirts, shirts, T-shirts, scarves and shoes that are designed to match the look.
“Thanks to my work at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, I’ve met textile artisans from all over the country and been able to study the unique character of each textile and different weaving techniques,” says Jo.
Jo also reconstructs the ancient patterns to give new dimensions to his fabrics. The saw-tooth pattern and the lantern-like design are enlarged while the lai kled tao (turtle shell pattern) is woven by alternating cotton and metallic rayon yarns in the warp and weft to give glittering effect. Another attractive pattern called lai rajawat is woven using extra weft strands to create raised patterns within small squares. The total impression is one of gently slanting and leaning squares.
Every handbag comes with a strap.
“Each bag is hand-made and made of the finest quality of materials from fabric, leather to buckle and zip. They are lightweight and waterproof and easy to clean either with wet tissue paper or through dry cleaning. I get annoyed though when people ask me why my bags cost as much as those of several luxury brand names. They don’t even stop to think about the meticulous process of production from the painstaking weaving of villagers to the finest cutting.”
A camouflage print was originally added to the collection to attract young generation buyers but has also proved popular with members of the military. A new collection is available every two months and Jo is now busy crafting a backpack to fit the needs of travellers.
>> Jo’s Bag is at Room Number 192 on the second floor of JJ Mall on Kamphaeng Phet Road, next to Chatuchak weekend market.
>> It’s open weekdays from 10am to 6pm, and weekends from 9.30am to 7pm. Call (092) 878 8858 or visit “Jo’s Bag” page on Facebook.