From China With Style

When it comes to fashion labels, few Thais consumers think of those from China. Chinese fashion for so many people is like Isaan food: best in the place of origin, not so good elsewhere. The problem, if it should be so called, is compounded by the fact that so few home-grown Chinese labels are exported.

The Middle Kingdom is, sadly, mostly associated with cheap clothes and knock-offs, so much so that Made-In-China remains embroidered on care labels, never uttered. In fashion terms, ‘good’ and ‘China’ are mutually exclusive. They are not bedfellows.

Thais who have not been to China may not imagine that in a country of more than one billion people (or 20 percent of the world’s population!), there are credible local brands that cater to their own. And now, to the world too.

Menswear brand Croquis is one of them, and an early bird (its sister brand JNBY or Just Naturally Be Yourself actually came a little earlier) that is spreading its wings in Bangkok, unfortunately without much attention. The first outlet is in Paragon Department Store, in a zone shared by Thai labels, leaving the uninitiated to assume that Croquis is Bangkok-born.

Launched in the scenic lakeside city of Hangzhou in 2005, Croquis is one of the more visible and noted Chinese labels with a distinctive fashion aesthetic. The more experienced eye can trace the look to those put out by the Japanese. This is significant as most Chinese menswear labels such as Me & City and Jack Jones take their design cue from the Europeans or the Americans. Croquis avoids the more conventional path, and its designs are as bold as they are directional. They are partial to unusual fabric parings, unexpected seam placements, and cuts that challenge traditional patternmaking. There is in all a rawness, an organic quality, a technical edge I find rather appealing.

Croquis’s sister line JNBY  has slowly and quietly penetrated the international market, with stores in New York, Barcelona, Vancouver, Singapore, and others (last count, 500 worldwide!). Like Croquis, the line avoids the straightforward, embracing, instead, architectural forms and that bit of surprise that makes each garment more unique, but not too much.

I learned recently that sales at both labels are slow, but I suspect it won’t be long.

Croquis is available at level 3, Paragon Department Store. The sister line JNBY for women is at level 3, Siam Center. Photo: Stealing Glances

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