Jim Thompson Life & Legend Thai House & Museum Visitor Information Bangkok's Leading Host Special Events
Home
The Silk Story
"VOGUE" Opinion Counts
Innovations in Silk Production
The Thai Silk Company Founded in 1948
Thai Silk Hits Broadway
James Harrison Wilson Thompson - Grandfather
Early 1950s
1959 - The Pinnacle of Silk Success
Early 1960s Thai Silk Debut in the World of High Fashion
The Mid - 60's
The Measure of Silk Success
 
     
Jim Thompson and the Thai Silk Company he established, saved a dying craft and transformed it into a world-class designer brand.

For Thompson, 'the real measure of the success of the Thai silk industry was not so much the profits of his own company as in the rival companies that began to spring up all over Bangkok.'

' Thompson's development of the Thai silk industry is often cited as one of the great success stories of postwar Asia.

 
     
 

Thai Silk, a hand-woven fabric, is noted for its exceptional luster, texture and its striking complement of contrasting colors -- such as emerald green and magenta, or deep blue and shocking pink -- coexisting in perfect harmony.

The sharply contrasting colors of Thai Silk coexist in perfect harmony.

 
     
  With his artistic inclination, Thompson instantly found the remarkable beauty and extraordinary qualities of Thai silk, both fascinating and alluring.

Traditionally the production of raw silk provided a supplemental source of income for many families in the northeast, most of whom were farmers. The raw silk was sent to Bangkok to supply weavers in the capital but by 1946, the hand weaving of Thai silk had become an ailing cottage industry. The use of silk was reserved for special or ceremonial occasions and so the demand for silk was small to start with.

Traditional handweaving of silk

Traditional silk weaving process is a slow and laborious process with the silk being used to make the traditional Thai style of dress. Despite its rich color, silk faded quickly with repeated washing as natural vegetable dyes were used in the dyeing process.

With the advent of industrialization in the early twentieth century, ever rising demand for cheaper machine-made textiles from factories in Europe and Japan, dealt a devastating blow to traditional silk weaving.

Families continued to weave silk but it was predominantly for their own use and little attention was paid to its quality. Even fewer families engaged in silk weaving, its further decline seemed inevitable and irreversible.

In spite of such a daunting scenario, Thompson was confident that the brilliance, and distinctive qualities of Thai silk would draw significant interest overseas.

To assess this potential, he had several lengths of silk in a range of colors woven to his specifications and set off in 1947 for New York to see if he could successfully market the silk and source sophisticated buyers for his extraordinary merchandise.