Educated at Silpakorn University, Pratt Institute and Domus Academy, Eggarat Wongcharit is one of Thailand’s most successful designers of contemporary furniture and home accessories. He is the CEO of Craft Factor (crafactor.com), and primary organiser and curator of the Thai design exhibition each year at Milan’s Salone Internazionale de Mobile.
How has design in Bangkok changed compared to 20 years ago?
Back then Thai designers were strictly OEM (original equipment manufacturing), but we’re shifting into ODM (original design manufacturing), combining design with production rather than just producing other people’s designs. Lower labour costs attracted investors in the past but that is changing with cheaper labour markets in Cambodia, China and Vietnam. Thais can no longer survive selling cheap labour; we have to elevate our image toward something more exclusive.
Tell us about your involvement in Salone Internazionale de Mobile in Milan this year.
I’m curating around 40 Thai designers this year, focusing on what I call Thai craftology, a mixture of craft and technology. We’re not as hightech as Korea or Taiwan, even though we’re headed that way. So we still promote out strength in handmade elements and natural materials like bamboo or water hyacinth.
Tell us about Craft Factor and Slow Hand Design.
I established Craft Factor in 2002 with three other Thai designers who have international backgrounds. Our aim is to produce well-designed furniture which fits an urban, trendoriented lifestyle by bridging art, craft, technology, and innovation. Slow Hand Design is a concept I came up with for the Thai design exhibitions at Salone de Mobile in Milan, emphasising the ways in which our art and cultural history influences Thai modern design.
You’re always impeccably dressed. Who are your favourite Bangkok fashion designers?
I don’t buy according to designer or brand usually, just pick up whatever strikes my fancy while travelling, or at Chatuchak market. Locally for me, I think Theatre designs clothes that almost never get dated. I also admire Kai’s classic designs a lot.
Where do you like to go for evening entertainment?
Since I got married I don’t go out that much, and when I do it’s usually to meet close friends at quiet restaurants. I also like to have friends over for dinner parties, when I usually cook Italian. Otherwise I drop in to The Club or Brick Bar on Khao San Rd, or Oskar on Sukhumvit Soi 11 sometimes. I don’t really go for the hi-so nightlife scene in Thong Lor and Ekamai.
What about your favourite restaurants in Bangkok?
I like Bacco for Italian, and Issaya Siamese Club for contemporary Thai cuisine.
What is your favourite weekend getaway from the city?
We have a house in Hua Hin, so that’s usually where me and my family go to get away. I love travelling in Isan, too, when I have a chance. There’s something about the close contact with the earth there that makes me feel more creative.
What do you like most about Bangkok?
It’s a very eclectic and also very tolerant and flexible city, open to outside influence and accommodating every sort of person. Even when things aren’t that
convenient or practical, the hospitality makes up for it.