Thai TikTokers make ‘elephant pants’… cool?

A employee assembles elephant print clothes on the Chinrada Garment manufacturing unit in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai – Copyright AFP Lillian SUWANRUMPHA


A chic Thai socialite poses in sun shades, a designer purse discreetly seen within the Instagram photograph, her trendy outfit accomplished by a pair of… elephant print pants?

Notorious throughout Southeast Asia, so-called elephant pants product of skinny dishevelled cotton have been as soon as synonymous with grubby backpackers searching for themselves — and the closest Chang beer, a preferred native lager.

The pachyderm pants have been adopted by foreigners throughout an early wave of finances Southeast Asia journey, as guests sought to applicable “genuine” tradition, regardless of there being little really Thai about them, researchers say.

Whereas they’re nonetheless offered from stalls alongside Bangkok’s vacationer haven Khaosan Highway for about 150 baht ($4), younger Thai influencers and the dominion’s excessive society are more and more reclaiming them.

“The pants are dope,” influencer Dalintan “MoRich” Promphinit advised AFP, after cavorting in a vibrant yellow set for his two million TikTok followers in April.

“They’re not simply souvenirs overseas vacationers purchase,” he stated. “Thais are rocking them too.”

“It’s like a trend assertion”, with a “teen road trend vibe”, stated the 19-year-old.

His followers immediately cherished his newest look.

“They stored asking the place I obtained it,” he stated.

– ‘A sensation’ –

Posing at Chiang Mai’s historic wall, Toei, 27, who solely gave her first title, is clad head-to-toe within the “lovely” elephant print.

“Initially, they have been successful amongst vacationers, however now they’re trending on TikTok, because of influencers,” her 28-year-old buddy Ong, additionally sporting the print, added.

“So, we embraced the pattern.”

A half-hour drive away is Kingkarn “Jack” Samon’s manufacturing unit, the place rolls and rolls of pachyderm-inspired prints are measured, sliced and stitched.

“The pants have grow to be a sensation in Thailand,” she advised AFP throughout a tour of the ability, which has round 100 employees, producing 1,000-2,000 objects day by day.

Orders — together with shirts, attire, even purses — are up 30 % because the finish of the Covid pandemic. The pants account for 85 % of gross sales.

Hers is only a small cog within the kingdom’s textile and garment trade, which accounts for about three % of its GDP.

Kingkarn imports the material from China, transport it to Bangkok for printing, earlier than it returns to her manufacturing unit, 700 kilometres (430 miles) away.

The design’s recognition, nonetheless, has not been with out controversy.

A web based debate introduced native reporters to her door after some Cambodians claimed Thailand had appropriated the elephant print, Kingkarn defined.

Refusing to be drawn on the newest iteration of the historic rivalry, she did admit with a smile: the controversy has boosted gross sales.

– ‘Assume Versace’ –

In the end, little concerning the pants are Thai, stated Kanjana Thepboriruk, an affiliate professor at Northern Illinois College’s Middle for Southeast Asian Research.

Their adoption by foreigners, making an attempt to stake a declare on “genuine experiences”, as a substitute meant Thais seen them as worldwide, she stated.

“I see the elephant pants as the newest method that younger wealthy Thais or aspiring middle-class Thais align their identification with Westerners,” she advised AFP.

And high-end retailers have shortly cottoned on.

Inside a luxurious Bangkok mall, Bangkok Tales’s elephant pants promote for 1,090 baht ($30).

“When folks take into consideration elephant pants, (they consider them as) actually low-cost, however I wish to make them appear to be Versace,” defined founder and designer Rawiwan “Gigi” Worasinsiri.

Rawiwan initially focused vacationers, however the pandemic flipped her enterprise mannequin, with Thais filling the deficit.

“I used to be shocked,” she stated, crediting TikTok for her success.

On the different finish of the spectrum in Bangkok’s sprawling Chatuchak market, 32-year-old Onnitsa Kuren already owns three pairs.

“Elephant-patterned pants go along with something -– simply pair them with a T-shirt,” she stated.

Musing as she browsed, she added, “I’m presently looking out for a pink pair.”

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