I spent the last couple weeks in Thailand and one of the main souvenirs I wanted to bring back was Thai silk. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to witness the production of this silk firsthand but I wanted to share the story of this unique fabric to others as well.
Thai silk is produced from the cocoons of Thai silkworms. Thai weavers, mainly from the Khorat Plateau in the northeast region of Thailand, raise the caterpillars on a steady diet of mulberry leaves. Khorat is the center of the silk industry in Thailand and a steady supplier of rose Thai silk for many generations. Since traditional Thai silk is hand woven, each silk fabric is unique and cannot be duplicated through commercial means. This silk has traditionally been reserved for special occasions due to its high cost so its local consumption is relatively low.
To be able to identify genuine Thai silk easily, Thailand's Agriculture Ministry uses a peacock emblem to authenticate Thai silk and protect it from imitations. The peacock emblem serves as a guarantee of quality and it comes in four different colors based on specific silk types and production process. These are the following:
- Gold peacock: Indicates the premium Royal Thai Silk, a product of native Thai silkworm breeds and traditional hand-made production.
- Silver peacock: Indicates Classic Thai Silk, developed from specific silkworm breeds and hand-made production.
- Blue peacock: Indicates Thai Silk, a product of pure silk threads and with no specific production method (allows chemical dyes).
- Green peacock: Indicates Thai Silk Blend, a product of silk blended with other fabrics and with no specific production method.
Local consumption is relatively low for traditional Thai silk. In the 1950s and 60s, American Jim Thompson recognized that Thai silk could have great appeal in US and UK and created a large company that mimics the traditional Thai silk for international customers. Even his house has become a major tourist attraction especially with his contributions to the industry and subsequent suspicious disappearance.
You can see more contributions to Thai silk in the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Bangkok. Its founding in 2003 was to create public awareness of Thai identity and culture, and the beauty of Thai traditional textiles, through research, exhibition, and interpretation