For the average visiting firang, South East Asian fashion is a multi-faceted plethora of cheap, knock off designer labels; last seasons Ralph Lauren shirts, inexpensive Diesel jeans and well-tailored, but none the less cheap, business suits. An excuse to stock up on fake designer labels at market prices.
But delving a little deeper into the clothing that is designed and manufactured in South East Asia, reveals there is a lot more to the fashion there than the assumed backwards approach of copying European and American brands.
Backwards indeed is Sretsis, not however in its rich and luxurious textiles and cutting edge design, but instead in its name. Sretsis is sisters spelt backwards, and this luxury Thai brand is the epitome of cool, both Pan-Asian and Worldwide.
The Sretsis sisters in question are Pimdao, Kly and Matina Sukhathuta, a Parsons School (NY) educated designer, an ex-magazine fashionista and a jewellery maker trio of siblings who created and nurtured their own uniquely Thai brand of clothing. Their Autumn/Winter 2008 Ready-to-Wear collection debuted at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week in the Spring/Summer 2009 shows to international acclaim. The show, Parallel Universe, focused on a fantasy world of animals and mythological creatures. Asian indeed were the themes of animal prints and embroidery, and also in the use of high quality fabrics, silk and jersey, expressing something quintessentially Thai.
Their most recent collection School of Rebellious Sweethearts, is a more uniformed but equally cutting edge collection inspired by high school memories. From modern prep to royal heritage its theme embodies Thailand, coupled again with Asian inspired fabrics of chiffon and satin.
Stocked across Australasia and London flagship store Harvey Nichols, Sretsis certainly puts high-end Thai fashion on the map.
Highlighting Asian forethought in fashion from a different angle is the increased ability to ascertain the next big thing in the clothing market.
Asia is a huge purveyor of simple bamboo clothing that is growing huge popularity worldwide. Sustainable, soft and durable bamboo is another export of South East Asia that could see world domination within the next decade or so.
A few years ago stall holders were selling bamboo clothing at Markets from Chang Mai to China, but with the West now educated about its sustainability, it is available all over the world.
Now Manufactured en masse in South East Asia, bamboo is then made into clothes and accessories and exported, or exported in material form for production into garments overseas. Understanding the emphasis on Fair Trade and the environment that purchasers of this material may have, South East Asias manufacture of bamboo is increasingly fair trade, organic and sustainable.
These new labels and trends support and encourage the purchase of South East Asian textiles. This is an industry where, despite the global recession, is predicting a boom.
During these bleak economic times tourist markets and bazaar prices will always appeal. Coupled with this South East Asian foresight into fashion with the quality of home-sourced fabrics to which it is loyal, could come through equally an economic and cultural winner for a previously considered clothing underdog.