Bangkok is a fabric heaven for those who love to sew and create. At first, it can seem a little overwhelming, but here’s what I learned from 3 days of shopping for fabrics for my new clothing business in Bangkok.
Start with Phahurat Market
It’s a sprawling, sometimes hidden market with hundreds of fabric vendors, and at its center you’ll find a 4-story, air-conditioned fabric mall called China World (a perfect place to pass the time in the hot afternoon hours). Pharurat Market is also known as “Little India”. Many shops are owned by Indian families and offer popular Indian fabrics.
You’ll find some shops at Phahurat look a little more legit than others. It varies from little stands with cheap, but random unmarked fabrics to well-organized stores that are happy to ship and can place factory orders for you. I scouted for places with a large stock of the fabric I wanted and the possibility to re-order.
Most of the shops I went in had at least one person I could converse with in English easily, so don’t worry to much about communication barriers.
Types of fabric you’ll find at Phahurat: Lots of linen, polyester, chiffon, silk, lace, Thai silk, and some cotton. There’s very little selection of cotton-spandex and stretch cotton. If you want to make a beautiful sari or colorful uniforms for a dance troop, you’ll be in heaven. A lot of stuff sparkles here! Also plenty of options for suit making, curtains and bedding.
Price Examples: From my experience shopping specific items, thin linen for shirts/ summer pants is about 100 Baht/ meter (wholesale). That’s $3 USD. Thicker linen is about 200. Thin cotton blends you can find around 50 Baht/ meter. Soft cotton, 100% is about 150/ meter and up.
There’s a little room for bargaining if you’re buying quantity. A few places I bought from offered free shipping to Chiang Mai while 2 others charged for this service. Very rarely did I feel I was given “Farang prices” (marked up for foreigners), but be weary when prices are not marked. Also, most fabrics are available in multiply stores so shop around for best price.
For more fabric and lots of beads – go to Sampeng Lane Market
Sampeng is a crowded, bustling market in the middle of China Town. Probably better to go early in the morning (which I did not ;). Take some energy with you, it can be intense pushing through all the people and carts being pushed. The bead selection is amazing; I had a hard time staying focused! Lots of fine stones. There’s a good selection of fabric at Sampeng, too, but not as impressive as Phararat. Still, I was very excited that I found one store selling stretch cotton (jersey cotton) in bulk and (bonus) managed by a very friendly staff. That was like finding a needle in a haystack. (That store is called L. Gemini).
Sampeng Market is also a great place to buy bags, boxes and all kinds of packaging from practical to frivolous. I will throw in that if you want to find cotton spandex blends or lycra, you’re probably better off ordering online. I plan to check out Alibaba and other online options this week for that particular fabric.
Where to stay/ how to get there:
If you’re new to Bangkok, here’s an easy suggestion to stay in budget:
At Home Guest House, just off Khoa San road is a cozy place for only 350 (fan) -500 (AC) Baht a night ($15 USD). It’s clean and you have good wifi and your own bathroom. I don’t even bother going out on Khoa San Road while I’m here; I just take advantage of the cheap prices and cheap airport shuttles. Be sure to take taxis that turn their meter on and avoid those that don’t. It’s very easy to get a taxi from Khoa San to the markets and it costs around 65- 100 Baht depending on traffic. So don’t take the first cab if he’s being an asshole ;).
I hope this helps some folks! Happy shopping .