Interview : Wisharawish Akarasantisook Thai Artist and Fashion Designer

Wisharawish Akarasantisook is a famous and talented artist and fashion designer in Thailand.
We had the chance to meet him in Bangkok before his journey to Paris for the Fashion Week.
We talked about his artistic projects, the exhibition “Made by Paris” and the international marketing work he’s doing for a fashion brand of clothing. Wisharawish told us as well about his haute couture collections, and his missions with the Ministry of Culture to promote thai silk and young thai designers.

How did you get started in design ?
When I was young I had no idea about fashion or design. Then I studied in the Faculty of Art in Chulalongkorn University and I discovered they had a department of Dramatic Art. When I studied art and theater, I had to study some design for the stage and costume. I learned as well the basic elements of design with the Faculty of Architecture and the history of design at the Faculty of Fine Applied Arts. That’s the beginning point.
One day I went to see a fashion design contest at Silapakorn University, I loved it, and that gave me the inspiration for working in this field. So I stayed one year to participate in this contest. Week days I studied there, and during the week-end I was learning by myself by going to the library.I loved to read books, that was a way to learn a lot. I had no connection with artists or designers so I had to find my own way of learning.
After I graduated, I started working for TV Commercials making costumes. I worked as well as a stylist for a magazine.Eventually Greyhound Company was looking for a designer ; a friend of my friend put me in the job. I worked there for 2 years. That’s how I learned the system and everything.

After working for Greyhound you went to Paris ?
I got a scholarship from the Thai Government to study in Paris in 2006.
I studied at the Institut Français de la Mode, Quai d’Austerlitz in the 13rd arrondissement, for one year. Then I studied French at Sorbonne University for one year and a half. I never learned French before, it was very difficult in the beginning. [Editor’s note : we talked sometimes in French with Wisharawish and his level is quite good!]
In 2010 I came back to work for the Office of Contemporary Art at the Ministry of Culture. I was an organiser to support the thai local designers.

Did you go back to Paris for more studies ?
In 2015 I went to the Cité International des Arts, rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville. It is close to l’Ile-Saint-Louis and the famous ice cream maker Berthillon. Everyday I went to Berthillon to have some melon ice-cream. It changed my mind. Actually there are some images of melon in my art work, but it’s hidden.
I went as well often at the Maison Européenne de la Photography because it’s very close.
During these 6 months in Paris, I could be alone by myself, take a break. Sometimes you need that to go back to your true self, your own DNA, and find a new inspiration. It was like a big meditation.

During your stay in Paris did you find your inspiration to create the art pieces for your exhibition “Made by Paris” ?
I was an artist resident by the French Embassy. When I came back I did this exhibition, supported by the French Embassy and the Ministry of Culture in Thailand.
I created these art pieces when I came back to Thailand but the inspiration comes from Paris. Hence the title “Made by Paris” and not “Made in Paris”. The ideas came during my stay from politics, human rights, climate change etc… Paris is a melting pot, a mix of a lot of people with a free spirit, that gave me new ideas.

[Editor’s note : the exhibition took place at the Subhashok The Art Center Gallery, in Bangkok, early 2016. On the first floor, “The Imaginary Map” presented 24 collages of pictures, wordings and articles which reflected life in Paris and Parisians’ perspective towards freedom of design.]

On the ground floor, The Artisans consist in big panels of textile format combined with photographs. They tell stories of Wisharawish himself while in Paris.The photographs were printed on fabric before being cut into small pieces, and woven with thread by traditional technique from his hometown.]

How did you have the idea of collage in the “Imaginary Map” ?

I used to work for the gouvernement. Everyday I had to work only on special papers because it’s the frame. How to escape the frame ? By the collage. I used this technique to write the words and hide some messages.

What about the bigger pieces, in “The Artisans” ?
First, I wanted the viewer to feel smaller than the picture. The pictures were taken in Paris and then I worked with local thai weavers. The town where I was born is famous for the silk : Buriram, North East Thailand. The silk I used comes from Khon Kaen, in the same area.

What was your message ?

Mixed emotions , a lot of things. It’s like censuring what I could say. The stripes are similar to a marker you would use it to cross out something. When you are in front of the piece you can see the reflexion of yourself with the graphic. But I don’t want to interpret further, it takes time to understand, there are some hidden messages.

You prefer to let your public have their own interpretation ?
Some people see the details they can link with their idea of Paris. There is the Paris you have from the magazine or the movies and there is my vision.

There is an amazing fashion show on your website , what was the concept ?

The project was “Contemporary Essence” by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of culture. We wanted to show to young people what we could do with silk in fashion. If the local designers don’t use it, Thai silk will not survive. You don’t need to make a 100% silk clothe, but use it for a part of the clothe. That still helps the local silk business.
I’m confortable to use silk for my collections because I was born into it, in my home town. Even in my house, my grandparents were using silk and around me many people were weaving silk.
The show was in august 2016 in Siam Paragon. The same year I presented another collection in Los Angeles.

It was very colorful …
Normally I don’t use much color but this time the theme was Isaan and the music from Isaan so it had to be joyful, fun. I tried to play with the colors. It was an experiment : how to mix colors that normally don’t fit together, and make something lovely and lively out of it.

How do you find your inspiration ?
A lot of my inspiration is coming from the words : I read a lot. And from the music as well.
My ideas turn from abstract to something concrete, tangible. I play with my abstract ideas to make something real, touchable. I get inspiration as well from the conversations I hear. All that make images come to my mind, related to the same universe and I have to work on that to create the piece .

How does Paris inspire you ?
At the beginning I wanted to go to London and finally my destiny was in Paris. It’s freedom. A lot of things are happening. You have some good times, and some bad times in winter. People are very “Parisiens” . The culture, the lifestyle, are very different from my country so it’s interesting to see these 2 parts of the world.

How is the Fashion scene different in Bangkok and Paris ?
At the end it’s the same world. It’s only 11 hours to fly to Paris . Everything is on internet, you can reach anything, you can shop online, so the world is small. But off course the local taste and the movement is not the same. As you can see Thai people appreciate a lot the TV stars, they follow the pop stars. In term of design, Paris is the center of the fashion business. In Thailand it has to be adapted for the locals. We don’t have winter, the lifestyle is different. Bangkok has its own character.

You’re gonna go to the fashion week in Paris in March. What is your mission ?
I manage my friends’ brand called Realistic Situation, created 10 years ago. I’m doing the marketing part.I’m good at planning. I manage the market and trading. We need some marketing for the international part, for selling abroad.The local market in Thailand is not enough for a company to grow. We are quite proud of our design so we want to expand. We sell all over the world.
They have 2 shops, one in EM Quartier, and another one in Siam Paragon.

You’re gonna be at the 3rd Eyes showroom in Paris, rue de Turenne ?

Yes. This is a Thai Showroom operated by Nasha Mekraksavanich and Jacopo Gianninoto. This is the second season for this showroom. There will be 10 to 15 brands represented. Realistic Situation will be featured there. I’m gonna stay 10 days in Paris.

What is GMS Fabric expo ?
A silk festival in Udon Thani. They bring my collection to showcase the work on silk. My previous silk collection belongs to the Ministry of Culture. It is often presented on TV or during events. People can even adapt the design. It’s fine for me, as long as it helps to promote Thai silk.

What happened in Wonderfruit ?
[Editor’s note : Wonderfruit is an annual celebration of art, music and life, taking place in Pattaya. A sort of thai version of Burning Man ]
I was there for one day, to help my friend organising her booth. She has a multibrand shop named “Why don’t you” in Thonglor.

What are your projects for the future ?

I organize a fashion event with the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture of Thailand. I bring my experience of fashion shows from all over the world.
The first show was in Siam Paragon Crystal Court, the 23rd of February, in the presence of the Minister of Culture. Then there will be a bigger show with 100 thai designers the 9th of May 2017. The purpose is to give Thai designers a platform to present their work. We want to them a chance.

My other project is to develop the textile industry with the locals in the South of Thailand : batik hand painted . I help them designing new products and make more variations, in a trendy manner.

My exhibition “Made by Paris” will be presented in Paris at the end of March 2017. I had to produce more pieces because some collectors already took some of them from the previous exhibition in Bangkok. This will take place in an art gallery 75 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, close to avenue Matignon. Both parts, “The Imaginary Map” and “The Artisans” will be featured.

Who are the designers that inspire you ?
I like the Japanese designer Comme des Garcons in term of the way of thinking and creative work.

To learn more about Wisharawish’s work you can visit his website :
and follow his Instagram @wisharawish_official

Model on the white background pictures : Baiboon Arunpreechachai

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