Khomapastr Ltd. textile factory in Hua Hin, Thailand.
A wonderful day by the Ocean,
I had the great opportunity to be invited to visit the Khomapastr textile factory in Hua Hin.
Invited by the managing director Asaya Kongsiri, who is the granddaughter of the founder and whom I first met through my friend Julie, who collaborates with the brand.
We left Bangkok early morning, with our cappuccinos and croissants, comfortably settled into the van. We were 5 people Asaya, Julie, Yukiko, Erika and me. The perfect number to be able to talk and get to know each other a bit. I felt very much that we were, as a group, a great match.
Arriving in Hua Hin, we had a morning tea at the store. This one is far bigger than the one in Bangkok, so you could easily call it the flagship-store. We had a look at the collection and we listened to Asaya telling us a bit about her family’s history and the story around Khomapastr; the story about her grandfather, the 7th son of King Rama IV.
Founded in 1948 by his Royal Highness Prince Bovoradej and her Serene Highness Pajongchitr Kridakorn, Khomapastr began its days in what was then a remote seaside resort town of Hua Hin. Prince Bovoradej had developed a keen interest in dyeing and weaving textiles while in exile in Saigon during the 1930s and pursued this interest upon his return to Thailand in the aftermath of the Second World War. Drawn to its charm and tranquillity, the Prince and Princess decided to settle in Hua Hin. Where they built a small dyeing, printing and weaving workshop on the family estate.
With great dedication, Prince Bovoradej conducted extensive research into traditional Thai designs and along with a group of design specialists, worked tirelessly to develop the processes to silk screen-print these designs onto cotton fabrics. As part of this endeavour, the National Museum of Thailand granted him unprecedented access to its archive of traditional Thai designs and extensive advice was sought from foreign experts on the technical aspects of the textile printing process.
Business proved difficult at first. In response to this, Prince Bovoradej and Princess Pajongchitr began to expand the range of designs and products to develop a more contemporary design collection, depicting various aspects of the Thai way of life. Designs such as ”Rice farmers”, the ”Dek Hua Juk” series and ”Views of Hua Hin” were printed and then sewn into handkerchiefs and scarves. Sold through a small kiosk by the beach, these products proved popular with visitors and locals alike. The product range soon diversified into various other lifestyle products such as place-mats, tablecloths and cushion covers. Business began to flourish.
Over the years, Khomapastr has continued to expand its product range, using exclusive designs to produce a unique range of printed dressmaking fabrics, home furnishing fabrics and an assortment of gift items. Perhaps the most important is the development of the Gold Hand Print design or ‘Lai Pa Kiao”, a design that was traditionally used as garments or ‘Pha Nung”, worn by the Thai Royal family. During the 1960s, the National Theatre of Thailand invited Khomapastr to adapt this unique design for screen printing and used the fabric as costumes for their productions. Today Gold Hand Print has become synonymous with Khomapastr and the company remains the only official manufacturer of this unique design.
Today, Khomapastr remains under the management of the family and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008 with the grand opening of its new showroom and factory in Hua Hin. The ceremony was graciously presided by her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Siridhon and was a true testament to Khomapastr’s achievement over the past 60 years. We hope to continue the tradition started by Prince Bovoradej and Princess Pajongchitr and strive to preserve the ”Khomapastr heritage” for many more years to come.
article source: Khomapastr Ltd.
What I love about an atelier, a workshop or a factory in general, is that I get to see the craftsmanship by the artisans close-up, as a photographer myself I feel close to people who work in this kind of process and you get a much better understanding of each step of their work/art.
Here’s a quick summon of the process:
Khomapastr means white fabric and that’s exactly what you have at the beginning, white 100% cotton fabric arrives at the factory. First it’s being simply washed, then you can start the work. The preparation is usually the longest and most difficult, to place the fabric onto the heated candle-waxed table, which is smooth and slightly sticky. The fabric needs to be flat and perfect on top of the support. The colours are being prepared by those specialised in working with the different colour pigments to get them right.
The fabrication of the silk screen itself, reminds me of photography, first the design is transferred onto this chalk overlay paper then it is exposed by light onto thin plastic support, which feels exactly like a photo negative. What is white comes out black and vice versa. It goes into a cleaning bath and then they put them into frames, so you can move over the fabric, easily and quickly. You have the retouchers, who make sure that the screens are perfect so they won’t leave any non-desired marks on the printed fabric.
Then you apply the colours, different colours onto different silk screen, it can be 2 up to 4 or 5 or 6 or further, depending on how elaborated the print is… Per day Komapastr can print up to about 180 yards x 4 tables, of silk screen prints!
Today I feel a bit closer to Thai culture and heritage, because I have learnt something new about their textile traditions, through the creations of the beautiful textile house of Khomapastr. I hope that I will have another occasion to come back to explore some more…
“Khom“, the new line of prints are celebrating the beauty of our Asian lifestyle. Vibrant colours from our blue lagoons, red flamboyant and green lime enlightened bougainvillea and hibiscus, sea turtles or parrots, geometric interlaced patterns and starry skies..
Before heading back to Bangkok, we had a lovely lunch by the ocean and a private visit to the Mrigadayavan Palace, a seaside palace of King Rama VI, in Cha-am, province of Phetchaburi. I will tell you that story some other day.
To find the stores:
Bangkok: Miracle Mall, 745 Sukhumvit Road, Soi 41, Bangkok, Thailand. (next to Tops Market)
Hua Hin: Villa Market, 218/1-4 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Thailand.