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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chiang Mai cafe crawl like a local

Chiang Mai: The air is fresher, the jazz funkier, the vibe cooler, the coffee... better?

At the coolest bar in Chiang Mai, owned by Thai artist Sepilan, we found ourselves talking to Bangkokians who had fallen in love with the northern city and relocated. And when we revealed our passion for a good cup of joe they wasted no time in listing out their favorites spots.

Could the coffee scene really be better in Chiang Mai? I'll leave that to you to judge, but we couldn't help but be impressed at the coffee knowledge, quality and presentation at each of these charming cafes.

So here's a visual guide to coffee in Chiang Mai from a local's perspective...

Nat Wat Home Cafe
Open: 08:00 - 21:00
+66 81 716 1608

Ponganes Espresso

+66 86 567 3330

Cottontree Coffee + Cafe
Open: 09:00 - 19:00

This charming town could keep you happily hunting for the perfect beans forever...

Don't forget - real coffee nerds follow @bkkbeanhunters on Instagram.

For more on Chiang Mai coffee spots and where locals go for the best Kao Soi, Sai Ooa and more, follow my lists on Foursquare: Best Chiang Mai Coffee Spots and Best Chiang Mai Eats.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tangled up in blue: Naturally dyed indigo in Chiang Mai

The other day me and Nikhil jumped in his car and drove to Chiang Mai. We are very spontaneous like that. It just took weeks of thinking and asking each other if we should do it until finally we said, "What the hell, YOLO, let's go."

See how we live in the moment?

Our purpose was this: discover interesting sustainable fabrics made of natural fibers, hand woven, naturally dyed, organic or any of the above. Nikhil has Nama Denim to think of and I have... my fashion pipe dreams.

If I could only wear one color the rest of my life, this just might be it. 

The lovely crew at Studio Naenna treated us to some up close indigo inspection. Our trip didn't coincide with one of their indigo workshops, but lucky for us they were making the dye and dyeing cotton thread for their own products as we arrived.

They took us through the steps, from growing the plants (in another location) to harvesting the leaves and processing them to maintain the integrity of their indigo vats. 

Indigo is a living thing which needs special care.

A vat of natural indigo that is well cared for can last decades, even a century. Just add more indigo to it year after year. I've even heard some people add drops of their favorite alcohol to appease the indigo. 

Unlike synthetic dyes, natural indigo isn't bad for you and can even have healing properties.

It produces threads and fabrics that have a real personal touch and a deep connection with the land. Traditionally farmers in the Northern and Isaan regions of Thailand would produce indigo, weave and dye clothes in their off-season. Now, production is year-round in many places but remains small scale because of the time and effort that goes into making each garment. Which makes it even more special.

As we drove away from the studio, clutching some indigo seeds in our hands, Nikhil asked me "So where should we plant these?"

I don't know, let's be spontaneous!


Some other great Chiang Mai indigo resources, info and inspiration:

The Kindcraft

Slowstich Studio

Vanilla Walk (Thai language blog)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

5 homegrown Thai swimsuit brands

Because in Thailand, it's always bikini season...

1. Khongboon Swimwear

These funky, skimpy bikinis have been taking over my newsfeed, with good reason. Each piece is reversible, which means double the #ootd potential - maybe that's why bloggers love 'em. Pluse those Brazilian cut bottoms will undoubtedly turn some heads (especially if your butt is as white and untouched by the sun as mine!). Traveler/beach-lover Supaporn Khongboon was inspired to design the swimwear line after she couldn't find a suit that fit her right. From the great reviews, I'd say she is pretty successful! Check out their website

2. Namanya Beachwear

I came across this brand at the TGIF Market a while ago and I immediately snapped up their Leo bandeau. So cute. (Although my boyfriend doesn't like it for some reason. Oh well.) Get your hands on Namanya at Terminal 21 or via IG.

Oh Leo, love it when you look at me like that.

A photo posted by I Make Bikini (@beachy_namanya) on

3. Virgin Daisies

Just the sound of their hipster chic name should tell you that this isn't your average "surf's up" beach babe bikini brand. Vintage inspired high waist suits made of velvet set them apart when they launched a few years ago. Now, with some active wear in addition to fashion forward swimsuits, a Virgin Daisies suit is a must for the Bangkok fashion set.

Try on some Virgin Daisies at their showroom in Sukhumvit 49 or at The Emporium or The Wonder Room concept store in Siam Center.

Sometimes you just need to try a bikini IRL!

4. Sunday Escape

This Thai-born brand has been on my IG feed for a while just for a dose of that Sunday feeling every day of the week. Affordable bikinis in cute styles. IG is their main channel, but they will ask you to order via Line. You know, that app where your parents like to overuse stickers and send you random YouTube clips.

A photo posted by Sunday Escape (@sundayescape) on


"Let's Get Tan" is their slogan, which is way better than that silly Snail White slogan "Let's Get As White As Humanly Possible." As a somewhat tan person myself, I applaud them for encouraging a nice tan. (But don't forget that sunscreen now!) They also have the celeb connection - the founders are models/actresses @yoghurt_rb and @si_phitsinee. So they better have the trendiest suits around. Online only so order via Line as usual.

A photo posted by TANTAN | Let's Get Tan (@tantan.bkk) on

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Short Courses at Accademia Italiana Bangkok Part II

Inside Accademia Italiana

I recently took the short course Basic Pattern Making at Accademia Italiana here in Bangkok. Yes, I gave up three glorious Sundays to learn how patterns are measured, drawn, cut and sewn.

With a little sewing experience already under my belt (three dresses and a skirt, which are totally wearable thankyouverymuch) I felt pretty confident, but don't worry, absolute beginners will do just fine as well. Here's a synopsis of the class.

(Then read about how I gave up my Saturdays to take a course on fashion design...)

Fashion Design: Basic Pattern Making (3 Saturdays, 9am - 4pm)

Week 1

The class began with a lesson on how to measure. In contrast to the design course, this course was very technical. From measurement to drawing, everything must be exact. From our measurements we cut the fitted bodice in muslin and sewed it at home as homework. In the following weeks we would create the skirt and sew them together to make a fitted dress.

With a partner we measured each other and double checked our results with the teacher, Jovan Petrovski. An experienced designer and pattern maker himself, he emphasized the need for precision. Although most pattern makers use computer aided design now, we started from the beginning with pencil, ruler and tracing paper.

One millimeter off and it's off with your head. J/k.

Week 2 

This day was all about dart manipulation. In fitted pieces made with woven fabric, darts are necessary to give volume. You can place them in countless positions depending on your design. We used the bodice pattern block to make a bunch of different patterns to play with the darts. As homework we made the pencil skirt to attach to the bodice.

Week 3 

In the final class we manipulated the skirt pattern to add flounce and play with the darts and design lines. In the end we had pattern blocks and patterns made with our own measurements that we could manipulate to create designs. 

It's a beginner's class so we focused on the fundamentals. It gave us a taste of what it means to be a pattern maker. It's a skill that not most fashion designers will have basic knowledge of now, since it is taught in fashion schools. Jovan warned us, however, that it's a fading industry and very difficult to master. But it was fun and inspiring and made me want to learn more. I'll be taking Pattern Making II this August... so stay tuned!

The sewing studio with industrial sewing machines.

Accademia Italiana
3rd floor Jasmine City,
2  Sukhumvit Soi 23
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana

Head over to the school's website for more info on the courses including schedules.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Short Courses at Accademia Italiana Bangkok Part I

I'm currently doing my second Coursera course (albeit slowly) and in the middle of about five different non-fiction books. But despite all this free knowledge, I've been thinking about going back to study for a while now. After my forays into blogging I wanted to know about the other side of fashion - design.

I decided to get a taste of what studying design would be like by taking a few fashion courses at Accademia Italiana. Bonus: it's located 5 minutes from my place in Sukhumvit Soi 23, so I could roll out of bed and make it to class on a Saturday morning in 15 minutes. Just like the old days!

I took two different classes: Designing a Trend and Basic Pattern Making. So here's a rundown of what to expect at these two courses, starting with Designing a Trend.

Fashion Design: Fashion Collection - Designing a Trend (3 Saturdays, 9am - 4pm)

Inside the Accademia Italiana classroom.

Week 1

The ten in the class ranged in age and experience. High schoolers interested in studying fashion, people who always loved fashion but work in other fields, aspiring brand owners. It's a beginners' class so no experience necessary.

Jovan Petrovski taught the class. He spent years working as a designer in some big name fashion houses so it was interesting to hear his take on the state of the industry. He explained the fashion landscape including the key fashion houses and their histories, segmentation of the fashion industry from haute couture to fast fashion and the how trends are formed.

The second half of the day was an introduction to fashion illustration and the main project of the course.

The project was a fun one - choose a muse from a list of fashion icons provided by Jovan and start filling up your sketchbook with research and ideas. The finished product would be an illustrated collection inspired by that muse.

My sketchbook and some of my sketches with exaggerated fashion proportions.

A note on drawing:

Illustration is not a skill I possess, and it was something I was worried about as I signed up for the class. Does that mean I can't design? The answer is no... and yes.

Jovan started by asking the class to draw a figure. At the final class we compared our original drawing to our new one and saw vast improvement. If that is possible over three weeks then with practice any aspiring designer can be a decent illustrator - enough to communicate designs properly, at least.

Week 2

Jovan over our homework from Week 1: the sketchbook with our research and 10 figure drawings for practice. We practiced drawing figures walking and standing in different positions.

We spent the rest of the class finalizing our mood boards. Thankfully, all my pinning had made me somewhat adept at moodboard making. It's all about color tone and flow, but you can tell I like my pics organized.

I chose Joan Crawford, combining her film noir style with tropical prints and beach style to make it contemporary.

Week 3

In the final class we designed our outfits. I didn't think it was possible but after 2 weeks of research and thought everyone was excited to put their ideas on paper. We designed 10 looks based on our moodboard then presented our project to the class. Fun!

Also loved how the teacher, Jovan Petrovski, regaled us with anecdotes about the fashion industry. Ask him about Maison Martin Margiela for an insider's perspective.

Jovan showing us how to color inside the lines.

Accademia Italiana
3rd floor Jasmine City,
2  Sukhumvit Soi 23
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana

Head over to the school's website for more info on the courses including schedules.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fashion Faux Pas: When brands make mistakes on social media

Fashion brands, they're just like us! And they don't always get it right online. Their tweets can be embarrassing and their 'grams a little grainy. Here's two recent errors from some of our favorite trendsetting brands.

- Nasty Gal copying Balmain and selling it for $78? Fine by us. Claiming Taylor Swift is wearing it at the Billboard Awards? Probably best not to make an emeny of Olivier Rousteing, Sophia. Read the full story on Jezebel. (This must feel familiar for Nasty Gal, who was accused of copying a design from Etsy in 2013.)

Photo via yahoo.com

- The designer that sits atop the House of DVF isn't immune to social media fallout. Many followers were less than impressed with the diva for Instagramming a photoshopped image of Bruce Jenner in her classic wrap dress. Read her response on WWD.

Photo via huffingtonpost.com

- Ok it's not a fashion brand, but Bud Light combined a social media and packaging campaign that was all in very poor taste (har har). The #upforwhatever campaign combines TV commercials, a social component and bottle labels that are, to put it mildy, a little "rapey."
- Oh, and on a side note, Anthropologie's dresses are getting so hideous and expensive even their loyal fans are abandoning ship. Read the full story on Washington Post and see below, selling for $648 (or 21,900 THB) on anthropologie.com.

Photo via anthropologie.com

Thursday, May 21, 2015

DVF Opens Wrap Shop at EmQuartier

Have you ever complained about Bangkok's lack of workwear? I hear it again and again. There's nowhere to buy appropriate, stylish, sophisticated clothes, unless you want to risk showing up in the same #ootd as P'Muay from account management. I'm looking at you Zara.

Well, one closet staple of the Western working woman is the wrap dress. Even Bruce Jenner has recently been "spotted" in it. And now the iconic dress is available at EmQuartier.

DVF first launched in Thailand at Central Chidlom in 2011. But who cares because a new, bigger store opened at EmQuartier last week.

The designer herself was here to launch the store with a full AW15 fashion show, complete with Thailand's top fashion editors, bloggers and, of course, free flowing champagne. This humble blogger sat second row, directly behind House of DVF's Brittany, the global brand ambassador.

Why so serious? Some of Thailand's most famous models walked the runway for DVF.

DVF AW15 at EmQuartier

Diane, 68, rocked a black and white short sleeve shift dress as she addressed the crowd after the show. She said she loves Thailand and Thai women fit perfectly with the DNA of DVF, which is "effortless, sexy and on-the-go." She even pointed to one front row celeb, Ann Intira, clad in DVF and exclaimed, "She arrived here on a motorcycle!" Thanks Diane, but moto rides in dresses ain't a thang here in Bangkok.

The Wrap Shop at EmQuartier offers a full selection of classic wraps ranging from around 18,000 Baht to 26,000 Baht. Renowned as universally flattering, it's the dress that built the DVF empire. But it's also associated with a working woman of a certain age. Plus, as my editor friend put it, you can't really make the wrap dress look unique. It's so iconic, it's a statement in itself.

Are you a fan of the wrap? Or will you wait to invest in this classic until at least your 35th birthday, like this Bangkok fashion blogger. Personally, meeting DVF in person and hearing her speak about the concept of her eponymous brand has inspired me to invest in a wrap dress... from eBay.

DVF - Central Chidlom
Ground Floor
Open Daily 10am - 10pm

DVF - Paragon
1st floorOpen Daily 10am - 10pm

DVF - EmQuartier
Ground Floor
Open Daily 10am - 10pm