Earlier this year, a new brand based in Southeast Asia landed in our focus, and I couldn’t wait to get all over it. Our buddy Lin was a big fan of a new treasure she had just found in Bangkok: a high quality and water resistant canvas bag with leather handles and great detailing. Immediately I was all over their social media and trying to locate their closest supplier. A few months later, I found myself in Bangkok, finally got a bag of my own and a chance to hang out with the wonderful ladies behind Tathata. Not only that – I got to visit their studio in the Suttisan neighbourhood, and learn all about their beginnings and craft.
In 2012, Vipavat Darapongsatapom (more commonly known by her nickname Potae), was working as a graphic designer at a major Bangkok firm. But at home, she was actually crafting by hand, high quality leather bags, and selling them each month at the Aree Garden Green Market. Right next to her, Kavita Srisan (who prefers to be called Kivi) was working at the same firm and crafting her own textiles for bags and watches. It was only a matter of time (about eighteen months) and many conversations about textiles before the two joined forces to launch Tathata, a brand devoted to high quality leather work and timeless products.
The name, Tathata, originates from Buddhist script and means a maintenance of “real.” And this defines many of the elements that Potae and Kivi craft into all of their products. With technical backgrounds in textiles, three dimensional design and leather work, Potae has carefully worked out the combination of flowers, careful timing and temperature needed to dye sun-bleached leather into the magnificent and tender hues that now colour their line of third collection of timepieces, called Bloom. You can watch the entire process here.
To create their new line of high quality canvas bags fit for use in every day life and accessibly priced, the pair focused on their own desire for functionality and clean design. Bags that were neither “nerdy” nor specific to the “IT crowd” that they were seeing in Bangkok department stores. Potae described the influences behind this collection’s design as being fit for her own life and needs and this explains why the bags have been so successful.
The pair work together on each new piece of all of their lines of products together. From concept to prototype and testing, to colour matching, graphic design and costings, Potae and Kivi have clearly outlined their areas of collaboration and expertise. And since their bags and watches are selling out in Bangkok and abroad, they have turned to working with factories in Thailand, who make their bags, and Taiwan who produce the mechanical bodies of their watches. The careful production of their organic hand-dyed leather watch bands, the leather handles of their collection of canvas bags, and assembly of their gorgeous watches, remains in their studio and in their own hands.
Potae and Kivi do not come from a line multiple generations of creatives and makers. Potae did learn how to sew from her dad, and Kivi inherited the skills behind bag making from a grandmother who loved textiles. However, they have built this brand and craft, literally with their own two hands. The duo have also turned their growing business into a family affair with Potae’s father, a retired engineer, assisting with leather work at their studio at Potae’s family home (which also warehouses the lot of their watches, and bags).
And as for world domination? Potae and Kivi would prefer to keep their operation small in order to grow their brand. They have expanded the distribution of their products from Thailand eastwards to Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and as far west as Barcelona and Switzerland. However, they wish for their relationships with stockists to continue to be as high quality as their products. This calls for smaller operations. Kivi describes all of their stockists as friendships and keeps in close contact with all of them, inquiring on customer preferences, improvements that can be made, and ensuring that the people using their bags and wearing the watches are always happy.
This strategy is clearly taking off. This year, Tathata launched their Live Serie collection of ultra-functional multi-wear canvas bags. All of these originated when Australian bag brand, Crumpler invited Tathata to take part in a workshop they were hosting in Bangkok. These bags are beyond sturdy and I’m looking forward to take mine all over the world as my new carry-on. I’ll be talking a lot more about these amazing bags soon.
And now for the important facts:
You can find Tathata products for sale on their website (with free shipping internationally). If you are in Bangkok, you can also find them every Saturday at Chatuchak Market, where you’ll also get to meet Kivi and Potae. They also have a number of stockists in Thailand and selected cities in Asia and Europe which you can find here.
All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.