On this episode of Talk Travel Asia podcast, we talk with Chomwan Weeraworawit about the rich textile history and diversity across the region and how you can experience it.

Textiles of Southeast Asia with Chomwan Weeraworawit on Talk Travel Asia podcast - Section 3 Courtesy of Philip Huang NYC

Shades of indigo thread dying outside a weaving room: Section 3 – Courtesy of Philip Huang NYC

There is a long and rich history of textile production across Southeast Asia both through history and across geography. While many are familiar with Thai silk they may not be familiar with some of the other textile traditions across the region. On this episode we chat with Chomwan Weeraworawit about the variety of unique textiles across the region and how you can experience them.

Scott and Trevor talk about their experience learning about textiles during their travels and what (relatively little) they know about it. They then introduce their guest who was born in Thailand, but raised and educated mostly in the UK with stints in Indonesia and Paris. Weeraworawit trained as a lawyer in London but has swayed from the legal profession to engage in more creative endeavours in fashion, art and film.  She recently completed her PhD on intellectual property and the textiles and fashion industry in developing countries at King’s College London. She’s currently a features editor and contributor to 2 Magazine in Bangkok, Thailand.

Chomwan Weeraworawit on Talk Travel Asia podcast 57: Textiles in Southeast Asia

Chomwan Weeraworawit – Photograph courtesy of Chut Janthachotibutr

Chomwan answers these and other interesting questions: 

Trevor: “One of the first articles we worked on together at 2 magazine was called To the Roots, about textiles in Thailand. And as I was editing it, I realized that this woman has a wealth of knowledge about textiles. How did you first get interested in textiles and how did that evolve into a passion?”

And then you did a PhD: tell us a bit about your thesis.

Trevor: “Coming back to the 2mag article and the region, I think that most people are aware that Thailand is famous for silk, but many people don’t know about the other textiles that Thailand is famous for.”

Trevor: “As you know, we’re a travel podcast. One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering local crafts and purchasing them from the artisans who create them. For example, in Siem Reap Cambodia there is an organization called Artisans D’Angkor that operates a silk weaving village outside of town and visitors can go and learn about silk weaving production and buy silk from the women who have created the fabrics. Do you know of any places around Thailand where you can have that experience?”

Trevor: “Another aspect of textiles that I find really fascinating is the connection they have to a culture’s history. I first became interested in Luang Prabang and visited Ok Pop Tok, who really focus on the historical significance of textiles and how the designs are reflection of the experiences of the people and create a recorded history. What are your impressions on that?”

Explanations of different natural dyes: Talk Travel Asia podcast episode 57 textiles of Asia with Chomwan Weeraworawit

Explanations of different natural dyes

Trevor: “Further to that point, I love going to places like the Chiang Mai Hill Tribe Museum. There are so many different small cultures in the region and they have such distinct textiles. Let’s talk a bit more about the different Thai cultures and the textiles one can experience around the country.”

Trevor: “If someone were to come to Thailand specifically to experience textiles production and perhaps purchase the best authentic local textiles, where would you recommend people travel?”

Highlights of Chomwan’s talk include:

  • Naka Village in Udonthani – the first textile to be given a GI in Thailand was Naka Ikat. Natural dyes.
  • A lot of textiles in Isan.
  • Sakon Nakhon Indigo – unique, hand woven Indigo textile is a GI, not indigo itself but Sakon Nakhon has it in abundance, even an Indigo Street across from the the main temple Phra That Choeng Chum.
  • Patricia Chessman’s Studio Naenna – reintroduce natural dyes, workshops at her outpost in the suburbs, store in Chiang Mai in Nimman.
  • Hom Indigo in Chiang Mai and the north of Thailand.
  • Sop Moei Arts – a French couple working with hilltribes since 20 years, their shop is on Charoenrat Road
  • Jim Thompson Farm in Pak Thong Chai in December and January every year. Experiential, can be a daytrip from Bangkok or stay in a hotel in Korat.
  • Yala Batik
  • Sukhothai – Mai Kid
  • Kalasin – Praewa – Kalasin Museum
  • Green Royal Residence in Chaiyaphum (didn’t talk about this but this is the textiles museum that is interesting – best of Isan silk)
  • Hemp in Chiang Mai in Mae Rim
  • Nong Bua Dang Village in Chaiyaphum

Click to see a map of locations and organizations discussed in this episode. 

Click to see a Photo Gallery from this episode.

About our guest and today’s episode:

To learn more about Scott & Trevor:

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