Just walk into any shopping mall or market in Bangkok and you will see rows of silk items, from pre-cut dressmaking fabrics to neckties, and cushion covers. While many of the store owners promote their items as “silk”, most are not pure Thai silk but a less expensive mixed fabric.Avoiding synthetic Thai silk can be as difficult as avoiding rush hour traffic in Bangkok.
That’s fine if you’re looking for a low-cost gift, but if you want to purchase real Thai Silk, known as being the best silk in the world, make sure read my guide carefully:
Part I. Recognizing Real Silk
The question is, “how can you be sure that the silk fabric item you wish to buy is actuary 100 percent Thai silk and not the imitation, which is made of polyester?” There are five basic guidelines for determining the answer to this question. Consider the price, the weave, the lusters, and the print and what we call the Burn Test.
1. Price: There is a big difference in price between the 100 percent silks items and the imitation items. Generally for a 100 percent silk item, you should expect a price of anywhere from 600 Baht to 2,500 Baht, depending on the item, whereas the same item in imitation silk will be priced at anywhere frown 100 Baht to 250 Baht. Whether it’s real silk or synthetic, some larger and more extravagant pieces will have the higher price, but most of the time these ranges should be sufficient.
2. Weave: weave is another area which will allow the shopper to immediately see the difference between the real silk and the imitation. The real silk weave is completely handmade of from natural fibre and thus clearly shows small flaws or joins in the thread along the warp and the weft. The imitation polyester, on the other hand, is a machine-made fabric and has a perfect surface with no flaws or bumps. This aspect can be most important to the unknowledgeable shopper in that what appears to be perfect in polyester is actually the imitation of real silk.
3. Luster: luster is the third guideline feature, and a small light test shows whether a fabric is real or imitation. The 100-percent Thai silk is made with one color for the warp and one color for the weft. This is what gives Thai silk its natural sheen and luster and it’s what makes Thai silk so unique in terms of color tones and blends. Thus, when you hold a piece of 100 percent silk up to the light the overall color tone will change depending on the angle of light. With the Imitation, regardless of what light angle You hold it in, it shines white.
4. The Print: whether a fabric is a real silk or an imitation is also easy to determine by looking carefully at the print. A 100 percent Thai silk piece will have the printed pattern on one side with only an outline of the print on the reverse side When both sides are held up to the light, only the full print side will change color. The colors are not evident on the reverse side. With an imitation print, the pattern print and colors can be seen on one side while a plain color can be seen on the reverse side; and, both sides shine white when held to the light.
5. The Burn Test: If you take a thread or two of 100 percent Thai silk and light them with a flame, it will leave a fine ash and smell like burnt hair. As soon as the flame is taken away the threads will stop burning. When the imitation silk is lit, on the other hand, it will drip, it will burn black smoke, and it continues to burn after the flame is taken away. This Burn test is really unnecessary if you’re familiar with the other features discussed above. It is, however, the most certain way to determine authenticity when in doubt.
Part 2.Best Places to Buy Thai Silk in Bangkok, Thailand
1. Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson is THE place to buy Thai silk in Thailand.
Jim Thompson has many shops in Bangkok, both stand alone shops and mall stores. It is the best place to buy Thai silk as the quality is impeccable and the designs simply gorgeous. At Jim Thompson, you can buy silk fabric, silk scarves, silk ties, silk bags, silk make-up bags, silk shirts, silk skirts, silk jackets, silk cushions and much more. Jim Thompson also has a wonderful selection of cotton t-shirts, canvas bags, and you can also even buy upholstery fabric for furniture and cushions. If you buy at Jim Thompson, be prepared to pay the highest price. The quality is gorgeous but you will pay for it, so if you want a cheaper choice there are many other places that are much cheaper than Jim Thompson.
Situated on the corner of Suwarong and Rama IV roads, the mansion-like Jim Thompson store offers a variety of colorful silk products. Other branches in Bangkok are at Jim Thompson’s House, the Emporium, CentralWorld, Isetan, Siam Paragon and at major five-star hotels
2. Chatuchak Market (Jatujak Market)
Chatuchak Market has many excellent silk stalls and prices are good. Here you can buy a huge variety of Thai silk shawls and scarves, silk bags, silk shirts, silk pants, silk shoes, silk ties and more. You will also get a good price as bargaining is expected here and, if you buy more than one item, the price will come down even more. The grade of silk is lower grade at some of the stalls so inspect the merchandise carefully.
Chatuchak (otherwise known as J.J. by Thai locals) is in northern Bangkok next to the Mo Chit sky train station and is only open on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. If you do venture out to J.J., make sure you go relatively early in the morning (between 9 am and 12 pm) as in the afternoons the market is very hot and very crowded.
3. Anita Silk
Anita Silk is another famous place in Bangkok to purchase Thai silk. Anita Silk weaves their own silk and creates beautiful silk products that are then sold in their stores. Anita Silk has seven stores in Bangkok, most of them at the top malls here, where you can buy silk sheets, silk photograph frames, silk cushions, clothing and home accessories. The quality of Anita Silk products is lovely but the style is very traditional so, if you’re looking for something slightly more modern in style, there are other places in Bangkok probably better.
The Anita Silk Siam Paragon shop is lovely and is located at the Siam Paragon mall (one of Asia’s largest shopping malls), right next to Siam sky train station.