British Designer Jet Shenkman Loves Thailand And The Feeling Is Mutual
Jet Shenkman and her bespoke womenswear brand, Eponine London, first caught our interests exactly one year ago when a guest of the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s royal nuptials wore what was distinctively a Thai style dress to the wedding. Jet, who has lived in Asia for many years and been to Thailand more times than one can keep track of, first fell in love with Thai textile tradition during her honeymoon to Chiang Rai years ago. While the beauty of Thai fabrics and artistry hasn’t always been fully appreciated even on home soil, Jet’s brand proudly showcases it, reminding us of local values that are within arm’s reach.
As the creative director recently visited Thailand, we caught up with her to recap the experience of hunting for fabric and inspiration in Chiangmai and learned about a special someone waiting for her at home.
What brought you to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, recently?
We were invited as guests of the Department of International Trade Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Commerce. When we made a dress using Hmong fabrics for one of our clients who attended a Royal wedding last year, our little brand got noticed. In fact, as it turned out the dress made a big impact in Thailand. It took a while for us to realise this. It wasn’t until one of my suppliers in Chiang Mai told us.
As a designer, what do you love about Thai textiles?
I love the embroidery—often hand-embroidered fabrics—and the fantastic colours. Eponine is all about colour so these fabrics are the perfect match to our brand and a huge joy to work with.
Do you have any quirks or things you always do as a traveller?
Roaming around on foot, as it gives you the best sense of a city. I also love visiting markets—no surprises there—and trying local food.
Having been to Thailand so many times, does anything still surprise you?
I travelled with my daughter Nina who also works with me at Eponine, and what really struck us is how incredibly warm, kind and hospitable Thai people are. We enjoyed roaming around Bangkok and the markets of Chiang Mai and meeting so many different people. At the Style Bangkok Fair, we were inspired by Thai design and made some great new contacts. We are in the process of developing some exciting new plans and found new people and small charities to collaborate with.
How are you planning to translate the materials or intangibles from this trip into a collection or garment?
I shipped a lot of new fabric we found in from Chiang Mai, and that is my best souvenir. Wherever I go I always find fabric and bring it back and turn it into a special piece. We are developing some new designs and ideas for the next collection, which always contains Eponine Hmong pieces. So, it is a work in process and one I am keeping under my hat for now.
Can you explain one of the outfits you wore on the trip? (Because it was amazing!)
I very much liked the new Eponine Hmong Dress I wore to a dinner that the DITP very kindly organised in our honour. It is made from handwoven multicoloured fabric and for the straps we used embroidered Hmong detail with beads. The skirt is made from embroidered Hmong fabric.
See also: Meet The Woman Who Designed The Thai Dress At The Royal Wedding
Top three highlights of the trip.
The first highlight was the fantastic reception we received at Style Bangkok Fair, meeting so many Eponine fans and taking part in a Q&A and sharing my ideas and thoughts to a wonderful audience.
The second was meeting and shopping with two of my suppliers in Chiang Mai. There’s nothing like having a personal relationship with suppliers, and this was a dream come true.
The final highlight was staying at the most fabulous hotel in Chiang Mai called the Villa Mahabhirom. It consists of a compound of 14 old Thai houses sourced in the middle of the country and rebuilt in Chiang Mai by the owners. Each detail is beautiful, and the staff looked after us incredibly well.
One word to describe your trip.
Anything exciting things coming up in your life?
Right now I’m off to be reunited with our dog Flo who is finally coming home after nine days in hospital! She frequently features in our campaigns.
See also: Meet The Duo Behind Niche Creative Collective 'Half Caste Creations'