An Evening In A Library

More Thai designer labels, it seems, are showing their collections outside the regular fashion weeks, of which Bangkok has at least four a year. The latest to take the independent route is Tube Gallery. Designers Saksit Pisalasupongs and Phisit Jongnarangsin showed their S/S 2010 collection last night at The Neilson Hays Library in Surawongse Road. The European setting of this historic building seemed like an odd choice for the showing of a collection that, according to the two men, was inspired by khon.

Drawing from the classical Thai dance-drama was not surprising since the ten year-old Tube Gallery has tried to build the label on exotic ideas, such as last year’s ‘The Kyoto Memory’. But if that alllusion to the former imperial capital of Japan is anything to go by, we should not expect real historical or artistic references.

So, why khon, and why now? When I think of khon costumes, I see masks, the integral part of the dancers’ getup, which give characters such as the demon-king Thotsakan (from the Ramakien) their instantly recognisable identity. But I doubted that the models would be made to look like frightening fiends. Since the designers had also mentioned Eighties influences, I was thinking of the epaulettes seen on some of the costumes. These often elaborately embroidered pieces extend the shoulder of the wearer, pointing skywards. I had in mind, as you may suspect, the Balmain shoulders.

The exaggerated shoulder did appear, but only on one men’s jacket and one sleeveless version. So where was the khon influence? I really couldn’t tell, but that could be because I am no expert on classical Thai dance. Were the references so nuanced that they escaped the casual eye? Were they in the embroidery? In the makeup? Or were we being duped? If by design, khon was difficult to adapt, then Mr Pisalasupongs, also a commercial stylist, could have at least styled the clothes to give some evidence of their inspiration. After a while, I gave up making the connection to khon. Sitting in the high-ceilinged library, with the books beckoning, the clothes I was taking in was not unlike the air I was breathing in: recycled.

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