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NY Fashion Week Gets Touch of Thai

Thai Designer Adds Spice to NY Fashion Week

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Thai designer Thunyatorn Ng applies make-up to a model. (VOA)
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When Thunyatorn “Cheng” Ng speaks about Thai fashion and style, she tears up.

The 34-year-old Connecticut-based fashion entrepreneur and stylist specializes in creating traditional Thai outfits and costumes. Her designs were showcased during this month’s New York Fashion Week, at an event September 10 hosted by the Council of Aspiring American Fashion Designers at the Pier59 Studios in the Chelsea Piers complex on the Hudson River.

Ng prepared her show, featuring headpieces themed to the Chinese zodiac, in just seven days, after a spot came open.

“It was the biggest show of my life, so far,” in terms of attendance, she said.

“I have to confess: I never thought it’d come to a point where I’d do New York Fashion Week with my clothes,” said Ng of an event known for launching and accelerating careers.

Start with formal attire

Ng’s styles shown on the runway were provocative and stylized, with ornate headpieces and gold accessories. The result might seem theatrical, but Ng says her designs often start with the formal clothes Thais wear on important occasions.

“I liken this to Japan’s kimono. Not even the Japanese wear kimonos every day — only on formal occasions,” she adds. “But if you take the cloth of a kimono, modify and customize to make it fashion” as Ng does with Thai clothing, “now, that’s interesting.”

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Thai designer Thunyatorn Ng at her first New York Fashion Week in 2017. (VOA)

 

A native of Lampang in northern Thailand, Ng believes Thais, especially those who live overseas, should show more pride in traditional Thai clothing and fashion. Ng knows it is tough to compete with the allure of Asian cultural heavyweights like China or India, but says Thailand’s strikingly unique fashion and textiles heritage deserves more attention than they receive.

“The clothes themselves are beautiful. And I’m Thai, I want to show that I am Thai,” says Ng, a graduate of Bangkok University who majored in communications and the performing arts.

“My sense is that this is a viable business, one with enough promise and profit to support me, as a real livelihood,” she added of her choice to become a Thai tailor and dressmaker. “I also feel pride each time I’m able to exhibit Thai heritage and culture, to preserve it and pass it down, through this medium of clothing.”

An early interest in textiles

Ng first became interested in Thai textiles as a child, growing up surrounded by traditional silk production in northern Thailand. She renewed her interest as an adult living in the United States. That was when she realized Thai textiles and fashions had an image problem. They were so obscure as to be virtually unknown even though Thai fashion itself is partly a product of Thai kings adapting clothes from Europe, says Ng, who presented her work at New York University (NYU) during a November 2015 symposium on Southeast Asian dress and textiles, an event overseen by adjunct faculty Daniel James Cole.

Student to entrepreneur

Ng came to the U.S. in 2009 to study English. She worked as a freelance makeup and hair stylist, and as an assistant chef. Despite her fractured schedule, she found the time to fall in love. And in 2012, even in the famously diverse and worldly New York metropolitan area, she discovered the Thai wedding clothes she wanted to wear for her marriage weren’t readily available.

So she imported what she wanted, then undertook the task of customizing the garments, realizing stitch by painstaking stitch, that she held in her hands the underpinnings of her niche business.

For years, Ng ran Thunyatorn LLC from her home basement studio in Elmhurst, Queens, a New York City neighborhood. She imported, modified and designed Thai clothes for weddings or other formal occasions for clients in the eastern half of the U.S. She is now based in the New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut, where she also owns a day spa.

Clients fly her in and put her up in their homes, all to have her help realize a Thai wedding, a service that only a handful of U.S. companies can provide, nationwide.

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A model wears a Naga costume designed by Thunyatorn Ng at New York Fashion Week 2018. (VOA)

At her busiest, Ng makes four out-of-state trips in a month for clients, handling hair, makeup, clothing, and even providing Thai wedding gear like ceremonial water tables.

Chuthaphorn “Gai” Sricharoenta was one of Ng’s brides. Sricharoenta works at Yale University’s health care services group, which includes the dining hall and dietary aid divisions.

She met Joseph Weems online. He’s an executive chef at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. The couple had their first date at a Thai restaurant, on New Year’s Eve in 2014.

Sricharoenta wanted a Thai wedding for her second marriage. She decked out her two half-Thai children in clothes rented from Ng, while her 68-year-old mother flew in from Chiangrai for the wedding, July 22 near New Haven, Connecticut.

“I want to showcase what it is to be Thai. I also want my American friends, my colleagues and others, to understand Thai culture,” said Sricharoenta, 44, a Chiangrai native, hours before her wedding ceremony.

Weems supported his wife’s desire to share her culture on their big day.

“I like diversity. I embrace diversity, and this is a way of bringing a lot of people together, with diverse cultures. So this [Thai wedding] is a great thing,” said Weems, a 58-year-old Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native who wore a cream outfit, with Thai pants rented from Ng.

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Chuthaphorn Sricharoenta in a red Thai dress made by Thunyatorn Ng. (VOA)

Non-Thais welcome

Non-Thais wearing Thai dress, including traditional outfits, “is not something strange or offensive. It’s just that the world isn’t used to it … people know more about Thai food than about Thai fashion,” Ng said.

Ng believes Thais are much more sensitive about foreigners who misinterpret Thai religion than non-Thais who wear Thai clothing.

Also Read- Exposure to Pollen During Pregnancy May up The Risk of Asthma in Kids

“Fashion is more about your individual personality,” and what a person feels comfortable with, while religious customs are more about respecting tradition, said Ng.

“So I believe the wearing of Thai dress, mixing and matching Thai traditional designs and modern fashion, is not strange for foreigners to wear. I’d actually feel good if more people adopted that, and if I can help to make that happen.” (VOA)

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Scientists Think Microbes May be the Reason Behind Tunnels in Thai Garnets

The researchers argue that the microbes bored into the garnets while they were in the river bed. Microbes in the sediment of the river lack access to chemical energy sources like iron, which is contained in the garnet crystals.

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This image shows a garnet crystal with distinct tubular structures. VOA

Life has found a way to survive in some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. Now, scientists believe they might have found a new habitat for hardy microbes — inside garnets.

New research found unusual patterns of tunnels in Thai garnets with deposits of fatty acids in the burrowed pathways, indicating a microbe caused the damage.

Magnus Ivarsson, lead researcher on the study at the University of Southern Denmark, said the research started with an exchange student from Thailand who was studying the gem quality of the garnets. She discovered the tunnels that branched and changed directions, unlike previously described environmental weathering, and consulted Ivarsson.

“When I first saw these structures, these tunnels, I was sort of intrigued by the complexity of them,” Ivarsson told VOA. “I have previously studied other microbial boring in minerals and materials, but I’ve never seen anything with this complexity.”

The garnets are an unexpected habitat for microbes because of their hardness. In fact, according to Ivarsson, this is the hardest mineral yet discovered to be bored by microbes.

“Who knows what we’ll find next. Maybe a diamond bored by microbes. Who knows?” Ivarsson said.

Researchers are careful to point out that no living organisms were discovered within the gemstones.

Dawn Cardace, a researcher in the department of geosciences at the University of Rhode Island, studies how geology and biology interact. She told VOA that while this study didn’t find any DNA of the organisms, “This wasn’t troubling to me, largely because they chose to work with the sample set they have at a very close, submicroscopic scale.” She said they would have needed at least a thousand gemstones in order to collect a DNA sample.

About the research

The researchers relied on several technologies to come to their conclusions.

First, the scientists used microscopy to make 3D maps of the tunnels on the scale of microns. A human hair is about 50 microns wide, but the tunnels in the garnets were generally smaller, hence the need for high-powered microscopes.

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This image is a microphotograph of the network of tubular structures originating at the garnet’s surface. (Photo courtesy of Ivarsson et al, 2018). VOA

The scientists focused on how the tunnels spread and changed directions, and when they converged at crossing points called “anastomosis.” Although environmental weathering can cause cracks and fissures in hard minerals, Ivarsson said weathering processes can’t explain the complexity of the tunnels they observed.

The second step to demonstrate that microbes most likely created the tunnels required analyzing the interior of the boreholes.

“The organic content tells us that there’s been life living in there,” said Ivarsson.

In particular, they detected lipids and fatty acids, which are organic compounds common among bacteria and fungi.

Ivarsson and his colleagues compared these biological traces to hematite and quartz grains found in the same location as the garnets, in the river sediment of the Chiang Mai stream. Neither of the comparable stones showed signs of fatty acids, indicating the biological traces were unique to the garnet tunnels.

When asked about the results, Ivarsson said, “At this point we can say at least that biology has been involved. I would suggest that it’s fungi that has been involved in this. But at the same time, I think we should be really cautious because there might be other processes [at work] that are not known today.”

More studies needed

Cardace agrees that while microbes were certainly living inside the gemstones, further research is needed to prove how the tunnels were created. She said she would like future studies to show “a set of experiments done with candidate microorganisms that could do the metabolic work” the researchers proposed in their paper.

Ivarsson and his colleagues did, however, consider why microbes like fungi might be making the garnets their home. They sampled garnets from river sediment in Thailand, as well as within granite upstream.

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Thai Garnet Jewelry. Flickr

Ivarsson told VOA, “When we studied these garnets in the granite, we could see that there were no tunnels. But when we looked at the garnets further down the river, we could see that these tunnels structures had evolved. So, something happened along the way, along the transport in the river system.”

The researchers argue that the microbes bored into the garnets while they were in the river bed. Microbes in the sediment of the river lack access to chemical energy sources like iron, which is contained in the garnet crystals. Perhaps, researchers propose, the microorganisms created the filaments within the gemstones to access this resource.

Monetary value

Such changes to the garnets, however, decrease the value of the stones.

Shane McClure, global director of colored stones at the Gemological Institute of America, told VOA that when it comes to determining the value of garnets, “If there’s only one or two [tunnels] and they’re very small, it doesn’t affect the value at all. But if there’s a whole bunch of them and they’re very visible, well then it’s going to affect it quite a bit from a gemstone perspective.”

These gemstones might not be usable for flashy jewelry, but they do demonstrate that life finds a way in all sorts of inhospitable and unexpected locations.

Also Read: Jewellery Trends For 2018

As Ivarsson told VOA, “When we look for life on Mars, we need to know what to look for. And this is one type of biological signature that is definitely interesting in the search for life on Mars or any type of extreme environment.” (VOA)