“Designing clothes is about the only thing I’ve found I’m really good at,” says Thunyaporn “Nam” Surattanachaikarn, founder of Songbird. While that claim is debatable, her dexterity as a designer is undeniable.
Songbird has risen steadily since it was established as an online store in 2010. By 2014, an official store had launched in Terminal 21. Within a year, Surattanachaikarn had closed that shop and opened a studio-boutique above Aran Bicicleta in Ari, where she operates without the millstone of industrial expectations slung around her neck. Enjoying creative liberty, she designs blouses, bottoms, blazers, and more according to her ethos, one inclined to simplicity and eco-friendliness.
In fact, Songbird is a perfect picture of self-expression. It owes its popularity to Surattanachaikarn’s stark, yet often exotic, designs. Muted colour palettes and clean lines help Songbird bridge age gaps, attracting the young and the old, fashionistas of disparate generations. Crop tops contrast boxy shirts. Mini-skirts play the foil to maxi dresses. The tie that binds is one of colour and concept.
Surattanachaikarn spends most of her time ferretting about for raw materials. Songbird products are made of organic fabrics—including linen, bamboo, and cotton—most often bought from villagers in northern Thailand and tailored without sacrificing the shape of the original patterns. “The details, textures, and colours are already in place,” she says. “These textiles are beautiful just the way they are. All we have to do is look at the fabric and see how we can play with it to represent our style.”
In one of Songbird’s most recent collections, Indigo Mood, indigo ikat and raw linen gave the clothing natural grace. Before opening her studio in April of this year, Surattanachaikarn travelled to Chiang Mai to learn about weaving and dying with organic ingredients from local experts. The trip further developed Songbird’s long-standing chemical-free philosophy. Neither shoes nor bags, neither home décor nor clothing, ever includes toxic materials.
Songbird designs are produced in small batches. Considering their quality and limited availability, the price per item is reasonable, ranging from B1500 to over B8000. “I got into fashion design because it was my dream job,” says Surattanachaikarn, adding “not because I wanted to make a lot of money.”
While resistance to the politics of the industry is admirable, it’s the designer herself who truly distinguishes Songbird and its eco-fashion framework. “For me, it’s important that every bit of fabric is used,” she says. “I make all my products by hand and with my heart.”
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