Siam Royal Orchid is one of the longest-running handicraft companies in Chiang Mai. Founded 40 years ago by Rueng Nimanhaemin, who is now its president, its mission was to create job opportunities for local women. Back then it was difficult for women to find proper work, many of them having to do manual labor in places like construction sites. The goal was to produce light-weight products that were easy to ship and convenient for tourists to take home with them.
It was a challenging task for Danai Leosawathiphong, the managing director, who had just returned from studying engineering in the UK. He consulted his wife and they concluded that they should focus on jewelry, since it was a product women could work on and would make suitable souvenirs for tourists. Inspired by the beauty of Chiang Mai’s flora, Danai came up with the idea of enameling actual flowers. They wanted to keep the shape of the petals authentic and embellish them with silver or gold that would add value to the product. Danai and his wife set up a small lab in the Anusarn Building on Charoen Muang Road, which still exists to this day, and started experimenting with orchids. Not much information was available; most of what they learned came from researching at Chiang Mai University library. Chemical supplies were also limited, and Dana would have to fly to Hong Kong to purchase the necessary materials.
“On one occasion I made a hole in the ceiling when an experiment went wrong. Most of the time, the flowers would just dissolve leaving only their stems. It took about a year before I had some success and could begin to hire staff. Of course, our first employee had to be a woman, and the good news is that she is still working with us,” Danai said with pride.
Their earliest collections were mainly orchids, to which they later added roses and bougainvillea. They also use the leaves and stems of flowers to create accessories like earrings and belts. A bouquet of enameled roses is also a popular product. Their latest collection, which includes cut-out mango leaves and fish made from woven coconut fronds, has received positive response.
Siam Royal Orchid exports to the US, Europe, Russia, Japan and many other countries. Products can also be custom made. They once added the American flag to the petals of souvenirs for a customer from the US. During the pandemic, the company had to adapt as sales plummeted, but they managed to keep all 80 staff members on the payroll. Surveying their employees’ opinions, they decided to follow suggestions from some of them to produce face masks made from silk and cotton. The masks were sent to the UK, where Danai’s daughter marketed them under the brand Cocorose London. They became very popular; the products are neat, and silk is effective in filtering small particles. The mask is now available in Thailand under the brand ROC ROYAL ORCHID COLLECTION. They began this project with just one sewing machine, but currently they operate more than ten of them, which is an indication of their success.
Using available skilled workers and sewing machines, they have diversified and added apparel to the brand. It was an idea that was a long time coming since they had been participating in fashion shows to showcase their jewelry for many years.
Siam Royal Orchid products include jewelry, masks and apparel, which are displayed at their showrooms in the Ancient House Chiangmai, Klang Wiang Market and at the Anusarn Building on Charoen Mueang Road. You can also visit royalorchidcollection.com (foreign currency) or royalorchidgift.com (Thai currency).