Delving into the Heart of Northern Thai Textiles
Back in 2013, while roaming a Thai textile market, Kat was instantly drawn to the vibrant hues and patterns. Acting on this inspiration, she designed shorts in just one unisex size in a handful of fabrics, aiming to blend both comfort and style. Now that a decade has passed, we have found that our festival fabric, while beautiful, has an array of issues.
Despite COH's dedication to quality sewing and design, this fabric's durability remained a concern. When Kat later discovered that this supposedly "Thai" fabric was, in fact, imported from China she decided it was time to shift her focus to genuine, locally woven Thai fabrics, embodying resilience, authenticity, and sustainability.
Once COH began the search for locally woven fabric, it initially proved difficult to track down. Kat, alongside her assistant Âme, frequently embark on fabric-hunting expeditions in the heart of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their prime destination? The busy Warorot Market, known by the locals as "Kad Luang", which means 'big market'. Here, a myriad of stalls stand side by side, each offering locally woven fabrics from every corner of Northern Thailand.
While these new cotton fabrics have undeniable charm and quality, they also hold true to the essence of Northern Thailand's local and traditional craftsmanship. Choosing to source these local fabrics is not just about producing high-quality garments. It's a testament to supporting community artisans and contributing to a sustainable, eco-conscious fashion narrative. At the heart of Color of Heat is a mission -- to ensure that every piece not only lasts for a lifetime (or even more) but also stays true to ethical and environmental responsibilities.
Fine Fabric Challenges
Kat had anticipated that building connections with local weavers and scouring new sources for high-quality fabrics might pose challenges. However, the challenge didn't end there--as the team began testing samples, they encountered some unexpected issues with the fabrics. Certain fabrics exhibited varying degrees of shrinkage, even after our initial pre-shrinking wash. It just goes to show that there will always be a learning curve when working with new materials.
Nevertheless, challenges spur innovation. To address the unpredictable size changes after washing, the team adjusted their designs based on the new measurements. For the stubborn fabrics that continued to shrink even after pre-washing, a thorough wet press ensured they were perfectly prepared for our valued customers.
Local Weavers & Their Craft
Many of the fine fabrics selected by Kat and Âme come from dedicated local weavers located in provinces like Lampang and Lampun. What makes these fabrics truly unique is their seasonality. Each season introduces a distinct style, with colors and patterns reflecting the time of year.
In Thailand, most weavers are local individuals who craft textiles not as their primary profession but as a leisure activity. This artistry is intimately intertwined with the natural rhythms of life. When the rice fields demand attention during harvest season, looms are set aside, and weaving takes a pause. The locals return to their looms when the fields are quiet, ensuring that every piece of fabric tells not just a story of craftsmanship but also one of life, culture, and harmony with nature.
Maintaining Fine Fabric's Charm
Preserving the charm of these fabrics is vital to Color of Heat, and we strive to maintain tradition, quality, and sustainability in each garment. To learn more about caring for fine fabric, dive into our latest blog post on garment care.
When Kat Whatley traveled to Thailand with her parents at 17, they had no idea that it would lead to a decade-long journey in sustainable fashion.
Their curiosity and passion for sustainability led them to create a brand that promotes ethical production practices and minimizes waste.
Since graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC, Kat has focused on Color of Heat as a way to promote fair-trade practices and conscious consumerism.