| With his
artistic inclination, Thompson instantly found the remarkable
beauty and extraordinary qualities of Thai silk, both
fascinating and alluring.
Traditionally the production of
raw silk provided a supplemental source of income for
many families in the northeast, most of whom were farmers.
The raw silk was sent to Bangkok to supply weavers in
the capital but by 1946, the hand weaving of Thai silk
had become an ailing cottage industry. The use of silk
was reserved for special or ceremonial occasions and
so the demand for silk was small to start with.
handweaving of silk
Traditional silk weaving
process is a slow and laborious process with the silk
being used to make the traditional Thai style of dress.
Despite its rich color, silk faded quickly with repeated
washing as natural vegetable dyes were used in the dyeing
With the advent of
industrialization in the early twentieth century, ever
rising demand for cheaper machine-made textiles from
factories in Europe and Japan, dealt a devastating blow
to traditional silk weaving.
to weave silk but it was predominantly for their own
use and little attention was paid to its quality. Even
fewer families engaged in silk weaving, its further
decline seemed inevitable and irreversible.
In spite of such a
daunting scenario, Thompson was confident that the brilliance,
and distinctive qualities of Thai silk would draw significant
To assess this potential,
he had several lengths of silk in a range of colors
woven to his specifications and set off in 1947 for
New York to see if he could successfully market the
silk and source sophisticated buyers for his extraordinary