When we think of batik — an Indonesian fabric-dyeing technique using wax to form patterns — we mostly think of old-fashioned loungewear or something our aunts would wear to the beach. But a new project by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC) is ready to transform these perceptions. Following its success in 2018, the “Contemporary Southern Batik” project returns this year with more collaborations between batik producers and Thai fashion designers. The project has even attracted esteemed designers from other ASEAN countries who are up for the task of giving these beautiful yet neglected batik fabrics an on-trend revamp. 

[All images courtesy of OCAC, Ministry of Culture]

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Models showcasing the pieces from the Contemporary Souther Batik 2019 project.

The Contemporary Southern Batik project this year supports 15 distinguished Batik producers from the deep south of Thailand – Pattani, Yala, Narathiwas, and Songkla. Collaborating with them are 3 celebrated Thai fashion designers — Ek Thongprasert, T-Ra Chantasawasdee, and Sarunat Panchiracharoen — who will give these traditional southern textiles a modern twist. Whatever your previous perceptions of it may be, batik fabrics are set to be the new mark of sophisticated (yet also cool and urban) fashion in Bangkok.

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Ek Thongprasert with models showcasing his designs for the Contemporary Southern Batik project.
T-Ra Chantasawasdee with models showcasing his designs for the Contemporary Southern Batik project 2019.

The project this year is going bigger than ever before. Along with these 3 Thai designers, the Ministry of Culture has also enlisted 3 more Thai product designers to adapt Southern batik into their creations: Hirankrit Pattaraboribookul, Songwut Thongthou, and Patipat Chaiwetesh. There are also several designers from other ASEAN countries taking part, particularly those with deep heritage of batik works. We’ll be seeing work by Eric Chong from Malaysia, Nonita Respati from Indonesia, and Edwin Ao from The Philippines, amongst others. 

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A Minister of Culture representative with the innovative fashion pieces that have incorporated southern batik.

It may be difficult now to envision batik beyond that “hippie” loungewear vibe or something eccentrically colourful for the beach. But this joint project will be shedding new light on how to wear the traditional southern fabric. Batik itself can be a stunningly intricate work of textile art that’s definitely worthy of more appreciation, particularly by incorporating it in to our everyday fashion.

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Some products designed by Thai designers in collaboration with southern batik producers.

Now we’re able to see how these three trending designers will use their vision to bring batik to the modern wardrobe. They’re setting out to prove that beautiful traditional Thai fabrics such as Southern batik can be taken to the streets and look like they belong. 

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The batik fashion produced by 3 celebrated Thai designers for the Contemporary Southern Batik project 2019.

These fashion pieces from this year’s Contemporary Southern Batik project by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture will be presented at a fashion show as part of Elle Fashion Week 2019 on Sunday 1 September, Central World Square. At the same venue, an exhibition will also be held to showcase these innovative works that can be visited from 29 August 2019 – 1 September 2019. 

Karn Chatikavanij
Style Writer
A globetrotter with a love for sushi and Miu Miu, Karn is a fan of all things upbeat, delicious, and well-dressed. Her frequent activities include packing for beach trips, listening to 80s music, and trying to make daytime pyjamas happen.