Bangkok’s thriving denim culture is making serious waves in the city, says WGSN Denim Editor Samuel Trotman
Denim heads rejoice, you are no longer limited to the same cities on the globe to source unique pieces. As we highlighted in yesterdays post, Bangkok is a burgeoning hotspot of denim, a new must-visit for indigo lovers. From incredible vintage markets, great retail stores and local makers, we’ve curated your ultimate denim city guide:
- Jatujak (JJ) Market
Bangkok’s Jatujak (or Chatuchak) weekend market is, for some, the absolute idea of hell. But if you really dig in, and more importantly know where to look you’ll understand why it has long been a hotspot for vintage dealers and retro-loving buyers to sift through hoards of vintage and deadstock denim. Spread over 27 sections (more than 110,000sq-m or 35 acres), the market is one of the biggest in the world. On the surface it’s what you might typically find in a market in Thailand – mass reproduced Hmong fabrics, teak furniture and embroidered handicrafts, as well as mountains of simple household items which draw in the locals, however, if you roll your sleeves up and hit the right areas in this maze of stalls, you’ll be spoilt for choice. For denim and vintage clothing, head to section 6, where you’ll find 400 stalls with mountains of 50s – 70s denim, enough vintage bomber jackets to sink the titanic, rack upon rack of Hawaiian shirts, and logo tees by the arm load. You’ll need two days for this market alone.
A few tips for your visit:
- Arriving: catch the MRT to Chatuchak or Mo chit, and arrive by ten when stalls start setting up to enjoy the market pre-crowd.
- Be savvy: while the market is loaded with everything from vintage Levi’s, Japanese imports and hoards of Nudie jeans, the market is known for its knock-offs so be sure to check out all details on that pair of Big E’s your about to drop 4000 BHT for.
- You won’t visit the same store twice: You might think you have but no doubt you will have wandered miles from where you originally were. So if you like something, bargain, and then buy it.
- Stay hydrated: you wont believe the amount sweat your body can produce until you’ve spent 20 minutes sifting through that first pile of orange tabs you eagerly dived into. The humidity of Bangkok alone is enough to ruffle your feathers, so imagine that contained in the JJ markets aluminum sheds – especially in that pair of 15oz raw selvedge jeans you put on in your air conditioned hotel room. Keep up the fluids, and when you’re done stop off for a drink at Illy Bar for a cold Singha or pitchers of margaritas. Saturday afternoon/night is when all the locals turn up so expect a bit more atmosphere and entertainment then.
- Bargain: Although not entirely perfect, the universal ‘half the first offer and then expect to get to somewhere around 2/3 0 3/4’ is a pretty safe bet, although the rules of ‘dont let your eagerness show , ‘know the most you will pay’ and ‘be prepared to walk away’ are also useful.
- Bring a big bag: if you’re expecting to pick a hoard of bargains then be smart and bring a decent backpack or a tote to carry on your shoulder to avoid swinging multiple plastic bags and shredding your fingers.
- Eating. There are loads of food stalls around the markets, with local delicacies like sticky rice, roasted pork and easy-to-eat meat skewers being top choices.
- Bring cash: you’re going to need lots of it. There are ATM’s at the market but you’ll need cash for all purchases.
2. Denim shopping in Siam
Bangkok’s retail landscape is split into two segments: the purist raw denim category and followers of the more eclectic artisan style. Likewise, each of the two sees a consumer-split of distinct tribes, with the younger market buying into raw American and Japanese labels, and older guys who tend to veer towards the Kapital and local label goods. As one of Bangkok’s premiere denim specialist stores Pronto has been the gateway to raw imports from the likes of Iron Heart, The Real McCoys, Nudie Jeans (a favourite amongst Thai youths), Full Count and Naked & Famous. Likewise Me & Sons offers exclusive imports from Sugar Cane, Heller’s Cafe and Buzz Ricksons. At the other end of the scale Heavy Selection is a must-see with its five locations within various malls (the largest being Siam Paragon) throughout the city.
3. Bangklyn Project
Prasong Kunhasura (aka Pat) is one of the forefathers of the Bangkok vintage clothing scene, having been importing rare and unique pieces from New York for more than a decade. Through his label and store Bangklyn Project, Pat reworks vintage denim and military garments into contemporary designs that are sought after by local vintage enthusiasts. Pat is one of the select group of Thai designers that are truly pushing the envelope when it comes to class product that stands up to competition in Japan and the West. The remade vintage concept is one direction that has proven popular amongst local denim heads, with Bangklyn Project leading the way. Individual and impressive in his own right, Pat’s pieces channel a seamless blend of Eastern and Western that creates a truly individual Thai style. Anything from classic truckers, chore coats or work pants are deconstructed and reformed with traditional indigo patterns, bandana scarves or boro patchworks. Pieces are limited though, and you never know when or what he’ll be producing.
4. Blue Dye Cafe/Indigo to Indian
If you’re looking to escape from the all the chaos of Bangkok then there’s no better to relax than the indigo haven Blue Dye Cafe. Located off the busy road of Sukhumvit (Soi 36), this chic cafe is housed in a converted two-story house along a quiet and serene residential street. Owner and self-confessed indigo lover Tum Kittipong has kitted out the space with his vast collection of rare indigo textiles, retro style furniture and a quirky collection of stuffed animals that will leave you completely immersed in his love and passion for the blue shade. Upstairs you’ll find the complimentary store Indigo to Indian, which sells an eclectic array of vintage indigo textiles, native american jewellery as well as handcrafted indigo goods from local labels such as La Rocca, Bangklyn Project and the beautiful ceramics from Cone No.9.
5. Rot Fai Night Market
If you’re hungry for more vintage shopping after the JJ market then head over to Talad Rot Fai – the Train Market – also known as Talad Dek Naew, after the vintage-wearing, retro-loving Thai hipsters who hang out here. Open 5pm to midnight Friday to Sunday, the market has become a popular destination for local vintage heads to pick up an incredible array of antiques, collectables and retro stuff. Talad Rot Fai is quite a different experience to JJ Market so expect less colossal and crowds, no need for a map and contingency plan for the first few visits. The Train Market is the complete opposite. It’s like a small town fair in size in comparison and I think that’s part of its charm.
Keep an eye on the WGSN denim page for further features on some of Thailand’s most inspirational makers we met including Ben Viapianna and Master Thiti of Fai Sor Kam and Patricia Cheesman of Studio Naenna, Chiang Mai’s most celebrated and respected textile experts. And WGSN subscribers be sure to check out the full Bangkok Denim Guide click here.
Like what you just read? Follow Samuel on Instagramfor the latest indigo inspiration and denim news.
DENIM HEAD? Our team of experts are at every trade show, determine tomorrow’s trends and know which looks are going to have a huge impact on your business. Sound good? Join WGSN.