Thai designers, in so many ways, are luckier than their counterparts in the region. When it comes to support, they can tick all the following three: government, industry, and consumer. Some of Thailand’s neighbours, such as Singapore, are not as fortunate; they lack not only government initiative and incentive, they have weak industry backbone, and are able to retail to only a small consumer base. Thai fashion, on the other hand, is a veritable ecosystem of hardware and software, of manufacturers, retailers and shoppers.
It is, therefore, commendable that members of the fashion design community are united in their vision to see Thai designers taken seriously, as witnessed in the six-months-old website thaifashiondesigner.com, a moniker freighted with expectations. It is a promising endeavour, I thought, until I read the homepage and clicked the tabs of the seven attendant pages.
For starters, it is regrettable that a website targeted at those less familiar with the local design scene, presumably foreigners, communicates in a brand of English that is, at best, juvenile. The real puzzler is its name: inexplicable in its choice of the singular “designer” rather than the plural form. At first, I thought this is a site of one individual until I realised this was initiated by The Bangkok Fashion Society (BFS), an organisation spearheaded by designer brands such as Stretsis, Kloset, and Greyhound to push seven objectives that include one: “to encourage, provide support, in order to help lift the standard of design and quality of Thai fashion product to meet with the world’s standard”.
The purpose of thaifashiondesigner.com is not entirely dissimilar if it is, first, comprehensible: “to collectivize information about Thai fashion industry, the movement of various Thai fashion brands and designers, from the Couture Houses to brands the cater to the Custom Made segment using high quality materials, and the multtude (sic) of Designer Brands that conform to industry standards”.
Whether it is about “standard” or “standards”, it is not overloading the basket to have thaifashiondesigner.com come under the auspices of BFS. But this site is supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), so it would not be unreasonable to assume that it is intended as a showcase of Thai fashion design for those from overseas heading our way to shop, but are unfamiliar with the market and scene. If so, why does it not drum up any excitement for those ready to wield their credit cards?
Fashion enterprises in Bangkok are ever so keen to be represented online, but few consider the importance of content. Despite its good intentions, thaifashiondesigner.com is let down by nothing substantive. At first look, the monochromatic header of the homepage is mildly promising, but go deeper and you wonder why you’re here at all. Repeated future visits since its publication saw no updates. The last entry for “News & Events” was a “competition for young creative minds” held on 12 November 2012. Designer profiles and descriptions of collections are so varied in tone and language that it is clear they are individual submissions and not edited for consistency. While a webpage such as this could benefit from a more pictorial narrative, the photographs presented were so scant that the tab “Catwalk & Collection” is a misnomer.
Many Thai fashion designers are aware of the need for collective representation to strengthen their cause. However, with this site, I wonder if the old belief is still true: there’s too much rivalry, jealousy, and discord among designers to foster a united front.