#WomenWorldwide: The Woven Bag Era with Sommy Putthida Hensawang

Woven bags are the latest fashion accessory across the globe, and Thai native Sommy Putthida Hensawang of Above Studio has collated a beautiful collection of baskets and bags for beach and beyond from local artisans around Thailand.

Every piece created is handcrafted from the north to the south of Thailand, where local artisans help to shape and design the rattan, bamboo and woven bags which Sommy then sells at Above Studio.

Let’s find out a little more about Sommy and her business Above Studio.

Sommy of Above Studio

HOC. What made you get into woven and basket style bags?

Sommy. Having grown up in a rural community and then venturing off to the bustling concrete jungle of New York City, I realized the lack of available sustainable and ethical products didn’t cater to the needs of my lifestyle/beliefs nor the rest of the planet! In addition, the local villagers back home do not have the same access to abundant resources as we do and so because of this fact, I decided that I wanted to be the voice and connector to expose this unique identity and craftsmanship of Thailand to the rest of the world. I designed a series of trendy accessories that would cater to the fashion-forward crowd while keeping our mission of sustainability in mind. Moreover, our local artisans are very skillful in making woven and basket style bags. Hence the creation of “ABOVE Studio” – providing ethical, eco-friendly products to empower our rural communities and rise “above” the occasion that our environment faces.

HOC. From a fashion perspective are you always looking for the latest bag designs to replicate for Above Studio?

Sommy. Fashion is fast and you have to keep it up with the trend. However, I believe that with high quality of our products and customer service that we care the most will make us different from other replicated bags.

HOC. By keeping your bags designed and produced within Thailand you are helping to save the environment, was this something you had considered before working with local Thai artisans?

Hand Crafted Bag by Above Studio

Sommy. I grew up among nature because my dad’s family has a corn field and my mom family also grows fruit for selling in a province near Bangkok. I have seen those unique beautiful culture and traditional for almost half of my life. This is especially true for the weaving skill and farming skill, of which they acquired authentic knowledge from their ancestors. The artisans I am working with are those from the places I visited during when I was younger and they have been making these local products since then.

HOC. You stock bags of all shapes, sizes and designs and you stay true to the use of bamboo, rattan and woven baskets and bags, do you think you will every use other fabrics alongside your core materials?

Sommy. Yes, I am now using organic cotton from local artisan’s village near our Bangkok manufacturing. Also, I am now considering other local materials that can be used for making our new collection which will be more home decor line.

HOC. Do you have a favourite bag from your online collections at Above Studio?

Sommy. Yes, I love my foldable basket bag since its big and have lots of space and I can also fold it when I am not using it. This is really practical.

HOC. How long does a hand crafted woven bag usually take to make?

Hand Crafted Bags by Above Studio

Sommy. It usually takes almost 3 weeks. The first 2 weeks will be a process of drying materials and sometimes during rain season we have to wait another week to make sure all of materials completely dry.

HOC. How do you market your brand differently to other fashion accessory retailers, and is it a competitive market?

Sommy. I value our local craftsmanship. The product quality we present and the way we preserve our exotic culture and environment made us outstanding from other competitors.

HOC. What has been the biggest learning curve since you launched Above Studio?

Sommy of Above Studio

Sommy. Operation can be lots of work and you have to make sure every step by yourself first before you can teach and instruct your people.

HOC. What was the best piece of advice you were given before you launched Above Studio?

Sommy. Do your best.

HOC. What advice would you offer someone who is thinking of setting up an online store?

Sommy. I encourage everyone to follow the dream but just one thing to keep in mind that you will never ever give up.

For more information visit Above Studio.

Thank you for offering House of Coco Magazine an insight into your world of rattan, bamboo and woven bags.

Rachel McAlley

Rachel is currently a UK travel writer and beauty writer for House of Coco, she spends most of the week locked away in her country garden studio watching the world whizz by, and most of the weekend whizzing around the UK!

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