Bangkok-based jewelry designer Pattaraphan Salirathavibhaga creates approachable designs with significant meaning. Her debut collection “Pressure” under her eponymous label features thick pinky rings and hoops, interesting ear cuffs, chain necklaces, and, most notably, luxe soda tabs. Each piece is inspired by the anxiety and waste of city living, marrying the refined with the honest side of metropolitan life.
The materials and concepts in her collection are not groundbreaking but their construction makes them feel unique and high-end, but with an affordable price tag (ranging from $180- $400). Her soda tab pieces aren’t the kind you’ll find strung together on an Etsy account either—they are intentional, making them both an outfit complement and staple.
Below, COOLS talked to Pattaraphan about her work, how she’s giving back to her community in Thailand, and some of the struggles she’s facing as a young designer.
How did you get your start in fashion?
My original major, interior design, was not for me, so I decided to switch to jewelry during my sophomore year at Pratt Institute. As someone who didn’t feel like she was a maker, this was an unusual choice but it somehow felt right.
When my jewelry classes started, I fell in love with the process of jewelry making and its relationship to our bodies. I have been designing and making jewelry ever since. Looking back, I think there have always been signs that I’d end up in this industry. For instance, growing up, jewelry was the one thing that never failed to excite me, and I enjoyed classes like 3-D too much to not become a maker. I am also fascinated with the human body and am glad to find a medium that allows me to combine that with my passion for sculptures and making. In school, I experimented with one-of-a-kind art jewelry pieces, crafting each piece by hands and making sure that each tells a meaningful story. Now that I have launched my first full collection, this idea of making thoughtful jewelry remains for all my designs.
What are your inspirations?
Jewelry is really a medium for me to articulate my personal experiences and stories. In addition to making work that resonates with my personal life, I see beauty in the ordinary and in the overlooked items, and they play a major role in my designs. I’ve looked to bones, scars, and broken things for inspiration, for instance. But what struck me the most when I was developing this collection was the discarded soda tabs on the streets. Trash was a common sight for me, as I have lived in urban cities all my life. However, during that summer of 2017, I could not stop thinking about these soda tabs—or whenever I did, I’d step out and see them on the streets again. Feeling overwhelmed by this, I started to associate soda tabs with urban anxiety.
As soda tabs function using pressure, I saw these items, which are a huge part of our society and contemporary consumption, as a physical symbol of the pressure urbanites feel in our fast-paced environment. With this, I felt compelled to create work that speaks about both waste and anxiety and so the main pieces of this collection came to life. I further explored this concept of pressure in the rest of the collection with designs that need tightening or pressure to be worn. Turning what is usually regarded as litter into something like gold vermeil jewelry, Pressure Collection not only challenges our perception of luxury but it also examines our contemporary urban society, our consumption pattern, and their effect on our mental health. I have also partnered with Precious Plastic Bangkok, a local organization that recycles plastic, to continue raising awareness of waste in the local and design/fashion community.
What do you think is missing in the jewelry space right now and where do you think your brand fits in?
Jewelry is an intimate, yet dynamic field. It ranges from commercial to art jewelry with many other categories in between. And I think the line is getting more and more blurred. However, I often find the jewelry we see in the market a bit cold, lacking that special personal touch. PATTARAPHAN, in Thai, means beautiful skin and this meaning really shapes our jewelry. And I believe it is this concept and how I perceive and make jewelry that put my brand into a space between fine and fashion jewelry.
As a small designer, what are some of the hardest about getting your start?
The most difficult part is actually deciding to get started. Setting aside doubts from other people and your own self-doubts is a difficult task. But once you believe in yourself enough to listen to your instinct and nothing else, that is when your best work comes in. That in itself is very rewarding. It is also amazing to see pictures of my clients wearing PATTARAPHAN at weddings in London, events in Bangkok, and coffee shops in New York. One of the most rewarding parts as a designer and maker is having my work become a part of their lives.