Those who met me better, know that during my journeys not only I do love exploring scenic places, stunning sandy beaches, try bungee jumping or trek on volcanos, but I also love discovering the history, the culture, and the art scene of every destination we travel to. I adore interacting with local artisans to witness the world from their perspective, I enjoy strolling in the narrow alleys for hours, looking for the next piece of unique art to bring back home. This time though I was attracted by something different.
Torboon – Chiang Mai
It was late evening and I just got out of my room to visit the Sunday street market in Chiang Mai old town, as I usually do every Sunday. I recall, the streets weren’t busy this time. I stopped to check some handmade table lamps, made from mango wood, it would be a great addition to my bedroom I thought. While I was examining one of them, exactly behind the vendor, a tip of my eye spotted a little boutique shop with bright lights and colorful bags on the storefront. Something pulled me like a magnet. I approached the shop to realize that it was selling women’s bags and fashion accessories. The name on the sign said – Torboon.
Torboon in Thai means “to weave good deeds.”
The bags I saw weren’t common ones or something I have seen before, and honestly, on any other occasion, I wouldn’t even care about women’s stuff. But those ‘masterpieces’ were different. My curiosity pushed me inside the store. The place was full of amazing scarves, hats, belts, and of course, bags that caught my attention immediately. Everything was handmade, with high-quality fabric and unique patterns that were obviously inspired to showcase the local culture. I was charmed!
Meeting Khun Boon
After a few unsuccessful attempts finally I met the owner of Torboon at one of her shops. We had the chance to discuss her determination to showcase Thai heritage on the global fashion runway and she invited me to her atelier to experience the process of making bags from the very first steps which I was curious about.
Mrs. Boontavee Charoenpoonsiri, or Khun Boon, as people call her is a tremendously creative woman and the founder of the Torboon brand. Along with her husband, Mr. Mongkol Sae Guoy, who is a textile specialist, they have launched series of fascinating fashion accessories available throughout Thailand and in few other places across Asia, like Taiwan, where their bags are really popular.
She found her passion in the fashion industry at an early age and followed a successful career working for well-known brands in Bangkok. But her dreams and creativity drew her to Italy where she moved and studied everything about fashion design next to the top accessory designers. Recalling her love of Thai textile craft she desired to return home and settled down in Chiang Mai where the project Torboon was founded.
Mrs. Boon’s dream is to preserve and showcase the local heritage through her work.
My visit to the Torboon’s atelier
I had my cup of Thai espresso coffee, rent a little scooter, and drove to the countryside of Doi Saket district where the Torboon workshop is located. The atelier is hosted in a traditional old yet beautiful Lana house surrounded by teak plantation trees.
What a peaceful place to work in, don’t you think?
Mrs. Boon welcomed me with a big smile and showed me around. From the warehouse where the cotton is stashed to the open-air weaving area where the old wooden looms are still used to produce fine fabric, to the sewing area, and from there to the design room. She explained to me the traditional techniques used to dye the cotton with natural non-toxic paint, and how she loves to ‘play’ with colors, patterns, and textures to create new collections of handbags while following sustainable and ethical business practices.
The Thai Department of Environmental Quality Promotion certified Torboon at its silver level, acknowledging the quality of the facilities and the process of production.
“Defining Our Own Texture”
Mrs. Boon is proud to produce her own designs while using pure quality materials. For every collection, new patterns are developed, that best reflect the textile. All cotton threads are dyed by hand, allowing the traditional patterns to bond elegantly with contemporary designs. The obtained cotton fabrics are combined with high-quality leather and local tropical hardwood, like mango wood, coconut shell, and more, resulting in a luxurious end product. Every item is produced sustainably with respect for the environment and local traditions.
The ancient craft of weaving is used to produce the fabric by using the traditional hand-weaving technique.
Torboon produces exquisite, one-of-a-kind products, expect nothing less than excellence in texture, top quality and innovative design. Everything is made with attention to detail and meets the expectations even of the most demanding customers.
On Torboon’s website one can find trendy hats, a beautiful collection of wallets, and of course women’s bags that appeal to both younger and older generations. Recently they also added naturally dyed 100% cotton face masks, which are machine washable, with adjustable comfort fit design and built-in filter pockets. While in the physical stores there are a plethora of choices that includes everything on the e-shop plus, durable leather belts, scarves, ties and handwoven unisex apparel. I admit, that I regret not buying a pair of comfy pants during my last visit so I have it on my mind for the next time I will be in Chiang Mai.
The cost of the products is a bit pricier than what one could expect but it’s totally justifiable due to the quality of the handwoven textiles that cannot be replicated and the complicated process followed to produce each one of them. After all the production capacity and the number of craftspeople are limited which makes the Torboon brand so unique.
Take a look at some of Torboon’s chic designs below. If you wish to proceed with any order or interested in collaborations contact us for assistance.
A bag lover who believes a unique style bag speaks one’s character and creativity. The bag talks while it moves with the body even with a simple outfit. It is meant to give a smart match and elegant looks for those design-conscious people who value local handicrafts.
ownourtexture, #ownourtexture, own our texture, #torboonchiangmai
What about you, do you know any other brands like Torboon, that support sustainability and is on mission to preserve the local culture and heritage? Leave us a comment below and if you like this article consider sharing it. Thanks!