Writer : Editor Team
When a leading international publication like Wallpaper* UK decided to dedicate a feature on Thailand’s creative industry, they conducted interviews on many Thai opinion leaders in the creative fields, one of which was M.L. Kathathong Thongyai, Director of Thailand Office of Innovation and Value Creation, Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, one of the public organizations founded to support the creative industry. An Australian graduate, M.L. Katathong was a cricket athlete before returning to be a Thai public servant and has been at the helm of this organism for more than 20 years. This is the excerpt of the exclusive interview by Wallpaper* UK that focuses on the future of the Thai creative industry.
Thailand used to be regarded as a production base more than a center of creativity. What triggered the change?
“Twenty years ago, our competitiveness on production diminished due to the increase on production costs and minimum wage. Back then, value creation through creativity and design was very new for entrepreneurs. But we saw the opportunity to add values to Thai products. That was why the Department of International Trade Promotion founded what is now Thailand Office of Innovation and Value Creation. We wanted to find new ways to do research and develop creative ideas and branding to add values to Thai products and services.”
How can Thainess and local crafts contribute to contemporary designs of exported products?
“I think many Thai designers have realized the importance of preserving our Thai identity in the modern world. Designers like Korakot Aromdee come from outside Bangkok, but the can create works that are internationally recognized while still having a touch of local heritage. The thinking and design processes still respect the know-how of their ancestors, but they can adapt and present them in contemporary ways.”
What do you think of the change in perception about Thai design in the past decade?
“Making Thai crafts contemporary is a turning point. Thais used to recognize Thainess from temples or Buddha statues, but now they learn about it from contemporary works, like from the new generation of craft products, wickerworks and Thai silk.”
As a new player in the world’s design industry, do you think the eco-friendly products are important?
“I think the eco-friendly philosophy has already been part of Thailand’s design industry, and our designers are quite good in using recycled materials and making use of reclaimed works. We are conscious about the production process that are energy-saving. These are our future. It’s not only about designing anymore, it is about the whole cycle of production.”