มันเป็นสัญลักษณ์ที่สื่อถึงวิถีชีวิตชุมชน แสดงถึงการทำงานร่วมกันของหลายๆ ฝ่าย
“เราเริ่มต้นทำงานแบบครอบครัว พอเริ่มสอนกันไปมันก็เหมือนเขาโตพร้อมเรา เราโตพร้อมเขา ต่างฝ่ายต่างช่วยกัน”
Fai Ken (Hand-woven cotton): new clothes for the old business
Writer : Kanyanan Sanglor]
“The charm of hand-woven cotton is that it’s not just a piece of cloth but a reflection to the community’s way of life and the mutual cooperation among several parties because it’s totally impossible that a single person could finish the whole roll of hand-woven cloth on her own.”
Satta Tangkanobon, the owner and designer of Fai Ken from Ubonratchatani province pointed out about the uniqueness of an authentic hand-woven cotton (AKA “Fai Ken” in Northeastern dialect).
The end product of “Ken” process is the thick yet light-weight natural fiber with major advantages in its comfort and easy maintenance. “Sometimes we don’t need to iron Fai Ken. Washing, shaking off excess water and hanging dry are all required. It keeps your body warm when It’s cold and cool down your body heat by its well-circulation quality.”
The brand “Fai Ken” was founded in 1998 by Mitree and Bussayapan Tangkanobon (Khun Satta’s parents). During the beginning era, the homegrown “Fai Ken” from Ubonratchatani was the sole material for clothes making; however, other threads were later brought in to reduce hand-weaving process and lower the selling price (to please more varied groups of customers).
Khun Satta, who has been with the business since childhood, believed that he automatically gained all knowledge and interest in weaving process, design and management style from his daily scene. “I’ve seen it since I was born. When I was a child, I sold these items in the shop. I saw lots of craftsmen working their jobs and witnessed the production process. Many seamstresses and weavers even stayed at my place.”
All the above reasons became his strong will to take care of his family business since his teens. In 2007, two years after his fashion design graduate, Khun Satta took control of the brand “Fai Ken” with a bold determination to “change the look” of the brand.
From simple clothing i.e. sleeveless and long-sleeve shirt, fisherman’s pants, etc., in his parent’s era, Satta adjusted his fashion line to be more contemporary. “Our main concept is to make it a timeless piece that our clients keep wearing for a long time, to allow them to mix & match with other pieces like jeans or skirts to fit with their daily routine and never feel bored wearing it.”
Since then “Fai Ken” started producing female’s work attire, casual shirt, mini and maxi dress available in S-M-L size. Not only the pattern, color or matching colors that have been changed but the texture has also applied several weaving techniques. A particular piece of cloth of different texture was assigned to specific products only.
We used to make everything from hat, shirt, scarf out of one piece of cloth but we currently set a criteria for a particular product, for example, if it’s a scarf, we’ll mix some fibers to offer a soft lighter touch. If it’s a thick clothes, we’ll use it for pants while a thin layer will be used for shirts.”
Khun Satta informed us of his working procedure. The tough part was on the trial and test process as well as the convincing strategy to persuade the weavers and seamstresses (who worked on the same pattern for over 20 years) to create new things out of the box. The new products brought “Fai Ken” to meet new group of clients, who are young working group (whom Khun Satta never think of). “We try to adapt our pattern in favor of this group, for example, increase more working attire, casual clothes, soft-hue feature, lower selling price or anything to make it affordable for the below-30.”
However, Khun Satta aimed that his primary target customers should be someone who has a thorough understanding of hand-woven cotton and be able to afford the set price. “We didn’t need a large amount of orders but would rather have the client who really appreciates the concept and feels good wearing it.”
The design feature may push “Fai Ken” several steps forward but there are two challenges left to solve: raw material and skilled labor. Nowadays hand-woven cotton turns out to be a rare material. Numbers of cotton farmers are decreasing. The weavers, who are key factors, are only short-listed. “Current numbers of weavers go down to about 100, as compared to almost 400 in the past time. Some families no longer have any weaver because most weavers belong to the old generation. The youngest ones are in their late thirties.”
Forseeing an obstacle laying ahead, Khun Satta’s strategy is to strengthen their relationship. He works closely with the weavers, sharing his sincere concern and helping them out during the shortage of cotton supply. “I always tell them to let me know if they encounter any problem because sometimes they didn’t dare to. They will simply leave the job without advance notice. We have to go to see them at home. What happened to her? Did she get sick? Did she have any problem? If they ran out of cotton supply, we may kindly ask other groups to share some” explained Khun Satta of the relationship between his business and the labor. This might be the real charm of this hand-woven cotton he mentioned earlier and we overwhelmingly agreed with him now. “We started out like a family. The teaching allowed them to grow with us and we grew up from their support.”
When asked about what he needed to develop for the brand “Fai Ken,” Khun Satta hinted that “we may have an idea but without labor, our mission will never be accomplished.” At present, he puts lots of effort in bringing up skilled labor. He managed to have his staff learn to weave. Though it did not make any impact on production capacity, it somehow puts an additional breath to the weaving techniques that he wish to make it the brand’s signature.
At our last talk, Khun Satta suggested that new visions from a talk with people in the same business are of great essential. “When we live in the same environment for some times, we got stuck there. We have no idea where to go. A single idea is not enough. We may be able to come up with the concept but with the right touch, it becomes a inspiring creation.Who knows? Five years from now, the brand “Fai Ken” may come up with a good surprise.
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