Playful Pa Kao Ma
The Thai take on the sarong, called the pa kao ma, has found many uses throughout the country’s history. It has been a bath towel, a sash, a sort of sling used to carry around a baby, also a hammock for a child, a picnic blanket, a beanie, and much more. For the traditional Thai household, this multi-purpose item has perhaps been its most important garment.
Unfortunately, the tartan-like textile has steadily faded from popularity in Thai culture, especially in the country’s rapidly modernizing urban areas, where the pa kao ma is often viewed as outdated. However, there are some people who still value this classic cut of fabric, people like Nattawan Komolkittipong and Krittin Taweepoljaroon, the founders of Pakamian.
“The pa kao ma is soft, airy, and absorbent, but it has definitely fallen out-of-style,” says Nattawan, whose family has been crafting the garments for more than 40 years. Having backgrounds in advertising, Nattawan and Krittin have picked up the slack and helped transform the business.The two partners are now using their marketing eye and savvy to revive the functional and sometimes flashy pa kao ma in contemporary society.
Beyond technical skill, the two have incorporated the garments into fashionable wear while still keeping its classic style. From a rectangle of fabric, the Pakamian team creates various kinds of pa kao ma, including scarves, which are some of the shop’s best-selling items. All scarves come in vibrant colours and designs, most based on the traditional flannel-like checkered pattern. And so do other popular products, including cushions, pillows, boxer shorts, drop-crotch pants, and shopping bags and totes.
Pakamian also offers apparel, dolls, and accessories like notebooks, passport cases, wallets, and even mannequins out of the ubiquitous pa kao ma, all made using 100 per cent natural cotton. The company also offers a made-to-order service, allowing for creative and individual new uses for the humble cloth.
The brand has grown so fast that it has even caught the attention of customers abroad, in particular those in Europe and Asia. Yet despite this sudden growth, the prices are more than affordable, starting from B30 for a coin purse, B120 for a scarf, and B520 for laptop sleeves.
To see the entire collection, visit Pakamian’s warehouse at Ramintra (kilometre 8). Or you can stop by Central Embassy, Amarin Plaza, the TCDC shop, and the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, where a selection of the goods are sold. Check out the store’s Facebook page for quick glimpses of the products.
367, 369 Ramintra Rd | 0 6344 5059 | facebook.com/pakamian | Mon-Fri 9.30am-6pm
By Pongphop Songsiriarcha