Shopping Chiang Mai’s Designer Boutiques
Thailand gets a bad rap in films like The Hangover Part II and The Beach, which paint it as a lawless, oversexed wild East. While Bangkok and the South get their share of crazy, Chiang Mai has always remained a more gentle and artistic city. If you want original designs and authentic craftsmanship, come to Chiang Mai, where new neighbourhoods are blossoming with designer clothing boutiques and high-quality handmade jewellery shops, furniture studios and textile showrooms.
Once you get beyond the markets and temples of this city, you start to recognise its abundance of creativity. Chiang Mai is so creative, in fact, that it is campaigning for designation as a UNESCO Creative City, which has been awarded to 34 cities worldwide including Dublin for literature, Sydney for film and Graz for design. Aiming for a design bestowment, the Chiang Mai Creative City programme is sponsored by more than 100 companies and organisations working to promote and develop the city.
The best thing about Chiang Mai’s creativity is that you don’t have to go far to find it. Here are just a few of the designer shops that represent the best of it.
Things Called Art, 111 Phra Pok Klao Road
Much more than a paper and card boutique, this creative shop overflows with one-off T-shirts, notebooks and cards designed by artists Supachet Bhumakarn and his girlfriend, Siriwan Lohacheewa, both of whom weave the iconography of elephants into their work.
Eranyara, 145/2 Thanon Ratchadamnoen
Jewellery maker Rakchanok’s brand-new shop is filled with chunky and elegant local stones, woods, semi-precious gems, textured glass and other vividly coloured local materials fashioned into unique pieces of wearable art.
Tan Shop, 127/7 Prapokklao Road
Hemp goes haute at this shop run by the Chatwongwan sisters. The leather-clad hemp and wicker baskets are architectural and chic, while the shop’s tan and pink colour palette relaxes you the minute you walk in the door.
Tidta Tidjal, 4/3 Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 5
Take a break from the city centre and head to upscale and decidedly more local Nimmanhaemin Road. An eclectic studio, Tidta Tidjal features everything from 14th-century Sukkhothai porcelain and handwoven textiles to vintage 1970s and ’80s eyewear.
Vinita, Corner of Prapokklao and Ratchadamnoen roads
Everyone knows about silk legend Jim Thompson, but there are many other silk vendors in Chiang Mai. Vinita brims with an edited collection of high-quality batik silk hats, scarves, gloves, socks and clothing.