Sawang Boran: Reigniting Tradition

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
July 30th, 2014

In this Virtual Sourcing Trip, we head to Thailand, to Sawang Boran, a producer of some of the most exquisite silk textiles in the world.

Thailand is a country rich in beautiful culture and tradition. From its intensely flavored cuisine to its captivating natural landscapes, Thailand has long captured the imaginations of world travelers. The country is also famous for its incredible silks, which are not only high-quality fabrics, but are printed in intricate designs that speak to the country's unique identity. Sawang Boran, located in Khonkaen Province in Northeast Thailand, produces some of the most exquisite silk textiles in the world.

Thai silk is created from the cocoons of Thai silkworms, which are bred mainly in the Khorat Plateau on a diet of mulberry leaves. While Chinese silk has long been a popular trade product, Thai silk was produced strictly for private use for much of its history. While silk has been produced in the Khorat Plateau region for over 3,000 years, it wasn't until the late 1940s that the fabric gained international attention. An American OSS officer named Jim Thompson spent time in Thailand during World War II and felt that the silk being produced in the country would be popular in the American market. While the fabrics that helped to make successful in New York bore little resemblance to authentic traditional Thai materials, his enterprise gained Thailand a reputation for being a top world producer of the treasured fabric.

Today, Sawang Boran is one of the rare producers of genuine Thai silk in the world, and unlike Thompson's commercial version of the product, Sawang Boran captures the authentic beauty and appearance of the textile by using traditional production methods and designs, and only natural dyes. In fact, Sawang Boran - which means "ancient brilliance" in Thai - was created specifically for the purpose of preserving the craft of genuine Thai silk production, and sharing these incredible textiles with an international market. All stages of the creation process are designed thoughtfully. The company uses local varieties of silkworms and wholly natural dyes to create their beautiful fabrics. Sawang Boran's members - all of whom are women - bring to the venture their family's traditional methods, which have been passed down through generations.

All of Sawang Boran's fabrics are free of harsh chemicals and GMOs, and their methods require very little water and fuel. Members are paid fairly, and costs are intentionally kept as low as possible to allow the fabrics to reach the broadest market. Their silks, due to the inherent qualities of unadulterated indigenous silkworm varieties, are also naturally odor and dirt-resistant and are easily cleaned with water alone. While the weavers are deeply invested in maintaining the beauty of traditional production methods and designs, they also remain uniquely committed to innovation, and, as 'barefoot designers,' they create exclusive patterns bridging tradition and modernity. They specialize in striking ikat designs - a unique style of weaving requiring deep skills that are in danger of extinction.

Sawang Boran has revolutionized traditional textile upholding tradition. They are committed to creating fine, high-quality silks, by preserving ancestral Thai silk production methods, empowering the local community of artisans, and nurturing the environment.