Bangkok Sourcing Survival Guide

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If you are a lover of high-end artisan items, you have possibly wondered how it gets made. What are the steps from A to Z to get a product from the imagination and into the store? The most vital step is sourcing, finding the exact item you like and then getting it produced to your precise specifications and design improvements. And so, to demystify the process a bit, I want to share with you today an in-depth blog about how I go about sourcing some of my inventory here in Bangkok, Thailand.

Firstly, you need to do your homework. Talk to local and expatriate friends and do some online study to find out exactly where you can go to source what you want. Some of the most tried-and-tested wholesale and manufacturing stores are in Chinatown, Little India, Charoen Krung Road, Khwaeng Chakkrawat, Khao San Road and Chatuchak Market. But these are not all, there are other pockets scattered across the city, and each will offer something different.

I recommend you only focus on one specific neighbourhood or street each scouting trip, as inevitably the city’s traffic, heat, pollution, distances, abundance of stores, plethora of goods and any manner of surprises are guaranteed to eat up your time and energy. If you attempt to do too much, you’ll only end up frustrated and exhausted and likely go off the whole endeavour.

Next, look at Google Maps and find the most direct and efficient way to get to/from your destination. This could be a combination of walking, taxi, BTS Skytrain, MRT underground, ferry, bus and klong boat.

I advise that you should start your day as early as possible. Check what time the stores open where you’re going and be the first on their doorstep; the early bird catches the worm and keeps fatigue at bay (2:00-4:00 pm is the hottest part of the day to be out ‘n’ about). Another way to keep energy levels high is by wearing comfortable, lightweight clothing (i.e., linen), good walking shoes and a suitable hat.

The other essential survival items you’ll need are a water bottle, snacks, pen and paper, camera and/or smartphone and cash, as many old school stores don’t take card. In addition, if you can bring along a physical sample of what you’re looking to buy or make, this can help a lot. Failing that, a clear photo on your phone can help. If in doubt, use Google Translate to explain to the shop owner what you’re after.

As you go along unearthing great finds, make sure you write down the prices, minimum order quantities and available variations (size, colour, fabrics, etc.) of each item, otherwise you will forget or get them jumbled up. In addition, take the time to snap a picture of a shop’s business card in front of each chosen product; this will allow you to remember later which product sample is available from which shop.

I would also recommend you download the local messaging app called LINE, which is favoured by Thais. In the future, you will be able to stay in touch with the store, ask questions and even order products via the chat function.

And lastly, remember to have fun, smile, relax, be courteous and enjoy the ride. And maybe treat yourself to a foot massage and a glass of wine at the end of the day.

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Inspired by her travels and her passion for old movies, the Swiss founder of MonPanama, Anne-Claude Toral, has been fascinated by Panama hats and handbags since her childhood…. [read more]

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