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Paris meets Bangkok in collection by Thai princess

Paris, Sept 30, 2007 - Princess Sirivannavari Nariratan's grandmother Queen Sirikit of Thailand was a devoted customer of the French couturier Pierre Balmain and that relationship was celebrated with her granddaughter's first catwalk collection in Paris on Saturday night.

The 20-year-old princess, who has already presented two shows in Bangkok fashion week, said she wanted to come to Paris "to learn how they do everything here."

Her show on the opening day of the ready-to-wear for next summer was presented at a lavish gala evening at the Paris opera house with members of the royal family in the front row.

Balmain was a great traveller but nowhere influenced him as much as the Far East. On a trip to Thailand in 1959 he discovered the elegance and richness of the royal court and took home with him silks which he used in his own creations.

Queen Sirikit met him on an official trip to Paris the following year and appointed him her personal couturier.

The princess' debut Paris collection, called "Presence of the Past" drew on memories of her grandmother as well as giving a modern twist to Thai traditional costume.

Her favourite shape was the sarouel, sometimes like bloomers with cuffs at the knees, or a cross between a sarong and jodphurs, ample over the hips with tapering legs.

Dresses were mini-puffballs with gathered hems while loose tunics had deeply draped cowl necklines at the back.

As well as neutral ivory, beige and dove grey, the palette was pepped up with spicy shades like turmeric and saffron and rich ruby red.

The richness was in the fabrics, silks or brocades, and in the filigree silver and gold thread embroidery, sometimes enclosing precious stones like topaz, which encrusted hems and sleeves or inserted panels and half belts.

Princess Sirivannavari's chosen logo is the peacock, a good luck symbol, which she cleverly incorporated into bejewelled gilt wedgies and platforms, the heels enclosing a brilliant metallic blue feather. She also turned feathers and iridescent beetles' wings - preserved using an age-old Thai skill - into dinky clutch bags with fringes.

While the clothes might be too Thai for some tastes, the accessories would add an exotic touch to any outfit.

Asked if she intended to show again in Paris, the princess said."Maybe. It depends if they like me." She is soon to open a boutique in Bangkok and is eyeing another European city for a second.

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Published on 11/13/07

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