When asked what can Thai designers can offer, Rotsaniyom answer “Tradition, or Malai. For example, in that particular collection we can present to another country things which we use every day, because they don’t have anything like it themselves.”
Rotsaniyom’s designer, OF, and his partner, GIFT, have tapped into vintage-loving sensibilities once more, with this summer’s collection, but this time there’s a twist. When I interviewed them a few months ago, they expressed their love of Thai culture and tradition, and outlined the way in which it differs to the West. With their enchanting, fairytale take on life, their bold white on white choices, and delicate feel for fabrics, typically lace, cottons and silks, their interpretations of cultural differences are hard to resist.
The collection, named Malai, after the garland of flowers used in celebration of any occasion, from the formal and even Regal, to morning meditation, is breathtaking. In this picture, a small malai, traditionally hung from doors, store windows, altars and spirit houses everywhere in Thailand, is worn on the ankle.
I once walked through Bangkok’s glorious flower market at night, stretching along the side of the river and filled with the heady scents of a thousand million petals, and I promise the malai smells so sweet. Every morning in heavy traffic, when I’ve been sweltering in the back of a cab, praying for the roads to unjam so I can get to a show or some other event, the driver has stopped leaned out and purchased this tiny garland for a few cents. Strangely enough, each time it was hung on the rear view mirror, I began to feel calm. The driver would take a moment to wai, or pray to the malai, and then magically we’d be off at top speed. I can’t say why or how. Just like that.
Victoriana is a Thai speciality, with grand hotels, restaurants and cozy tea shops all exhibiting a politesse of which our grannies would have approved. The statement here is that in the West, with our supposed license to do whatever pleases us, we can take a traditional item and wear it in a more daring way, whilst the Thai counterpart should be more demure and respect tradition. And yet, it’s a question inside a conundrum. Who is the daring one and who the more free?
Touching on so many cultural mores, it brings to mind the even more formal and proscribed dress of those traditions where the woman is wholly covered. What is correct, what should be seen and who should display it? Provocative, as usual, in his subtle and charming way, OF’s intellectual take on art as fashion makes me gasp with admiration.
The Victorian age looks so Thai. Thai style has a signature already but not in clothes. So many Thai designers don’t want to show their culture but instead would rather follow the world. In our opinion they must mix our culture; you must not accept 100% of another culture.
Rotsaniyom, Vive La Difference!
Photography: Rotsaniyom and Dear Velvet
- Rotsaniyom: Imperfect Ideals & Magical Worlds (The Designer)
- Rotsaniyom: Modern Tradition & Beautiful Dreams