Quaker Marine Supply, established in 1949 have used indigo dyes in their collections since the beginning, and have long loved the look of shibori-dyed fabric, a natural process that has been practiced here in Thailand for generations.
Earlier this year, Quaker Marine approched us to design a W’menswear collection that brought together our passion for indigo and water. As we have been creating clothes that are steeped in the culture and tradition of Thailand since 2015, using local dyers, weavers, and fabric mills, it seemed like a great idea.
I myself had been a fan of Quaker Marine ever since I stumbled across a madrass Swordfish when I was at University. So, we found our common language and got to work on bringing together my textile work with Quaker Marine's signature styles. Meet the Floodplains Collection: a series of shibori dyed garments that take the classic Quaker Marine designs and dive a little deeper.
As a Thai designer, working with local artisans and dyers is a wonderful enactment of how integral indigo dying is to the local history and culture. Indigo-dyed clothing, particularly workwear, has been a part of the traditional attire of Thailand for generations. Both the Quaker Marine team and I were incredibly excited to tap into that legacy and create a collection of shibori-dyed garments that are both inspired and crafted by local indigo-dying traditions. This way, when you pull on a polo or pop on a cap from this collection, it’s almost as good as traveling to Northeastern Thailand yourself.
All four of the items in the Floodplains line are tried and true designs from Quaker Marine that have been made using authentic shibori cloth, dyed by sisters Kookik and Gai, in their hometown of Moo Baan Sawang in Northeastern Thailand. They developed their technique by experimenting with old dye techniques from knowledge passed down by village elders, knowledge that has now found its way into the garments of this collection.
Prior to dying, each piece of fabric was hand sewn in specific shapes to create that distinct shibori pattern. The fabric was then repeatedly dipped into indigo dye vats to give the fabric a rich color and texture. The team in America were chuffed to find out that Thai indigo dye has a bit of a sweet tooth, thriving on a diet of bananas, tamarind and palm sugar, making it smell like a delicious tea. So when we say these garments are steeped in traditional dyeing techniques, we mean that literally. Take a close whiff of each piece of clothing and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
We named the collection Floodplains as a nod to the fact that much of Thailand is based on water. In many ways, Thailand For centuries, Thailand’s waterways have provided the Thai people with their staple foods of rice and fish, fuelled by the abundant monsoon rains that have made the land fertile. And Khram, the plant that gives us indigo dye, grows on the edges of the river, needing water to thrive.
We named the two hats for the Mekong and the Chao Phraya, the two most important rivers in the country, and the long sleeve polo and polo dress we named for the Delta and Monsoons, respectively, two forces of nature that are integral to Thailand’s history. As a brand founded on a profound respect and admiration for the sea, Quaker Marine were fascinated and inspired in equal turn by the ways in which the water is vital to the Thai way of life.
This is even reflected in the way the garments turned out, as the unique dying pattern and coloration makes the fabric look almost wet, like the shimmering surface of the ocean or a swimming pool.
To test out the shirt, dress, and hats of this collection, we took to the rivers. What better way to field test a collection inspired by the water, than in a kayak? We set off in kayaks designed and built by my friend and collaborator Wit Pimkanchanapong, a prominent Thai artist who too draws much of his inspiration from the water, using the rivers as a source of new perspective.
The verdict? A huge success! The lightweight, flexible fabrics that make up this collection performed as they have for generations, allowing a wide range of movement and activity, while still maintaining a unique and timeless look.
We hope this collection inspires you as much as it did us – if only to get out onto the water, whether it be by handmade canoe, sailboat, surfboard, or diving into the waves yourself.