Boontavee “Boon” Charoenpoonsiri so loved handbags and the quality of Italian designs that it became clear to her that she had leave her family’s product design agency in Bangkok to go to Milan and study in the city of so many renowned designers.
“Learning from designers who work for global brands was really empowering,” Boon said. “After meeting them, I aspired to become a great handbag designer.”
She spent a year studying in Milan before going to continue her studies in Scandicci, a community in the metropolitan area of Florence in Tuscany. Brands like Gucci and Prada support institutes in Scandicci, providing programs to promote leathercraft and training workers to do it. However, as a foreigner with no European heritage, Boon found institutes were reluctant to accept her, so she took private classes and spent another year learning everything from the basic skills up.
Boon returned to Thailand as a confident bag designer. When she travelled to Chiang Mai, she found to her dismay that many weaving factories were shutting down.
“I have always been fond of local textiles, and hearing skilled weavers were going out of work troubled me. I decided I had better let my family run the product design agency in Bangkok and come and settle in Chiang Mai,” she said. “We choose how we live, and I chose Chiang Mai, which has a strong heritage of hand-woven textiles.”
By incorporating master techniques of leathercraft into her bags, she now creates exquisite designs that highlight the charm of traditional textiles at her company Torboon. “Our textiles have a cultural appeal. We must show them to the world,” said Boon.
Torboon occupies a hybrid concrete and wood building, from where they market handbags made from Thai textiles and genuine leather that are known throughout the world. Amid a lush green environment surrounded by teak woodlands, their open-air workspace is sectioned according to function. Storage, dying and weaving each have their own zones. Lines of various sizes of looms offer a glimpse of fascinating textiles that cannot be seen elsewhere.
Getting to where she could open Torboon as a startup was by no means an easy journey for Boon. Luckily, she met Boon Mongkon Sae-kuay, a master of hand weaving techniques, who offered advice; this later led to their forming a partnership.
“It may sound simple, but when we partnered up, we had a lot of memorable moments and took quite a bit of time getting it all together,” said Boontavee. “We each had our own expertise—his was weaving and mine was design. It was a perfect match. He could conjure up anything I designed,” Boon said.
In 2011, they set up a brand Hand By Boon which was launched at NAP, a renowned art and craft festival in Chiang Mai. With products recognized for quality and design, their domestic and international customer base gradually grew as they participated in multiple exhibitions and fairs. Then they started making other products such as belts, shoes and hats in addition to handbags.
In 2013, they underwent a crisis when their Hand By Boon brand was taken and patented in China. Eventually, they changed their brand to Torboon. “We really like this name, which has the sense of weaving for the benefit of traditional Thai textiles. It conveys Torboon’s mission to weave bags that showcase the value and culture of Thai textiles to the world,” said Boon proudly adding that all materials used in her products are meticulously selected before elaborate production processes can begin.
Torboon is not only a brand of superior quality and design that prioritizes functionality, it also puts values on the resources they use. Using more than 85 percent of materials that are biodegradable, Torboon has earned a G GREEN Silver level certificate from the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion that guarantees their eco-friendly production process. They have also won the Prime Minister Award 2018 and Chiang Mai Design Awards.
“We like to share value creation with our users so that they can also be proud of our culture. We think communicating the value of Thai hand-woven textiles to foreigners is important, so we are willing to pass on our knowledge and skills by opening courses to those who may be interested in our wallet-friendly course prices when compared to studying abroad. This is our way of giving back to the community,” Boon said.
ที่อยู่ : 1st floor, ONE Nimman, Nimmanhaemin, Muang, Chiang Mai
Website : torboon.co
Facebook : TorboonChiangmai
Instagram : torboonchiangmai
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Email: [email protected]