Blog: Leonie BarrieThai style

Leonie Barrie | 5 October 2006

Thailand’s recent military coup really must rate as one of the most peaceful and low-key in history, and worrying news coverage of events in the days leading up to my visit last week ultimately proved very misleading. Arriving with some trepidation in the country’s capital I was surprised to see very little evidence of soldiers or tanks on the streets of Bangkok and instead a lively, bustling city going about its daily business. The local media seemed free and unafraid to debate the coup and its aftermath, and the general consensus of everyone I spoke to about it seemed to be that moves, however unorthodox,  to rid the country of corruption and nepotism can only be a good thing.

It was also abundantly clear that the support of Thailand’s much-loved King has been critical to the success of this operation. Having reigned for 60 years – and witnessed no less than 17 military coups during this time – his popularity is openly displayed by Thais wearing yellow T-shirts and jackets and even “I love the King” wristbands. Apparently yellow was chosen as the official colour of the celebrations since the Thais associate colours with days of the week and Monday – the day King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born – is associated with yellow. The yellow shirts have been so popular that there haven’t been enough to go around, despite an initial production run of 500,000 – and it’s fascinating to see them being worn by people of all ages, for work and at leisure. If only more fashion trends were like that!

As far as the apparel industry is concerned, the timing of the military action a week before the opening of the annual Bangkok International Fashion Fair and Bangkok International Leather Fair 2006 (BIFF & BIL 2006) was borne with good spirit. Although official visitor numbers have not yet been released, it’s more than likely that many visitors shied away from the event. Which was a real shame since it was expertly organised with twice-daily catwalk shows and hundreds of exhibitors showing everything from fabrics to footwear and cutting-edge design. The Thais have a fantastically creative culture and are trying to hone this flair for creativity into new markets, and several companies are also ambitiously trying to launch new brands with international appeal.

As with most of the trips I go on, I have piles of notes and documents to work through but will do my best to share my findings with you over the coming days and weeks.


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