There’s something mystical and magical about watching clothes being made. But so often, what we wear is made out-of-sight and out-of-mind. It is, perhaps, the reason we as consumers feel so separate from the production of our clothing. We don’t see what happens in the factories in Bangladesh or the studios in Turkey. And that lack of connection might be the reason we so readily waste 92 million tons of clothing every year.
It’s also maybe why I’ve been hooked watching a video of Philip Huang dyeing a hoodie with natural indigo in Thailand for the last hour. The Kenjie Tie-Dye Hoodie is part of his eponymous brand’s latest Autumn/Winter 23 collection, Eclipse. In a bubbling cauldron is indigo, sugar from tamarinds and burnt seashell alcohol. It looks like the kind of stuff you mix up as a kid: a bit of this, a bit of that. But the color is rich and intense. Into the vat goes a white hoodie, rolled up and tied so that it gets tie-dyed in a trippy pattern. Leaving the garment out lets it oxidize, and take on that deep color. Finally, the hoodie is rinsed in vinegar, washed and hung to dry.
It is a mesmerizing process. A process that is the result of generations and generations working with indigo in northern Thailand. Grandmas and aunties are the figureheads of this technique; ensuring that the knowledge is passed onto future dyers.
And it’s not just the dye process that is full of craft and history. A hand-crafted buffalo pin badge is added to the hoodie, which is made by a local Sakon Nakhon ceramicist. A ‘PH’ wordmark is hand-embroidered on the pocket and the drawstring eyelets are hand-stitched; both by the Fatima Centre in Bangkok, a skills-development working with at-risk women. Knowing all of this; seeing it all happen, makes you feel connected to the hoodie. And purchasing the hoodie, bringing it into your life, will make you treasure it more so than a sweatshirt with a logo that just says “Made in China.”
There are, of course, other benefits. The natural indigo is more planet-friendly than its chemical cousins. The hand-made, local production is less impactful on the environment. And there are no plastics or animal-derived materials.
The collection is focused on various natural dyes. Others used include mango which yields a vibrant yellow color. In an Instagram post, Philip Huang says: “It literally takes fire, water, mango bark and leaves, indigo fermentation and the dedication of two villages to handcraft each pair of our socks. First tied at our studio, they are then dyed in indigo at Baan Dong Siew then turned into mango moss at Baan Pakkhambhu in Sakon Nakhon.”
If that doesn’t make you want these socks, I’m not sure what will.
Also in the collection is an Ikat robe, inspired by Tilda Swinton and her “ethereal and majestic composure that is almost other-worldly.” The long robe is made from four meters of silk rayon hand-dyed and handwoven by artisans in Sakon Nakhon, and dyed with indigo.
Philip Huang has also taken inspiration from a little closer to home. The Ririkrit Work Jacket is modeled on a favorite jacket of Thai artist, Rirkrit Tiravanija. Again, the piece is finished with indigo dye and features seashell buttons.
I could go on as there are so many interesting, story-rich pieces in the collection. But I’ll let you dive into it yourself, and get carried away with the stories behind each piece. I know I feel more connected to this collection of hand-dyed, hand-crafted pieces than anything I could pick up on the high street.
Get obsessed with the collection for yourself on the Philip Huang website.