Nearing the end of her annual three-month stay in Bangkok earlier this year, Italian artist Arianna Caroli realized that returning to her homeland would not be easy because of all the travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 epidemic.
So instead of lamenting her predicament, this stylish and animated (in that unique and wonderfully Italian way) lady decided to simply stay on in Thailand and continue her lifetime passion for painting. It launched an interesting new chapter in her life.
Through connections, Arianna found a great location that would for the first time allow her to showcase her various artistic endeavors to a Bangkok audience – a vacant shop in the lobby of the Athenee Hotel in Wireless Road. Today, this shop is an exclusive outlet for her paintings, home accessories and a wide range of attractive clothes, from wispy scarves and aprons to gorgeous shawls and even stunning interpretations of simple everyday clothing found in Thailand.
Although she intends to eventually head back to her homes in New York and Italy, where graduated in ancient literature and archeology from the University of Rome, for the time being Arianna and her beautiful collection is a permanent fixture in the hotel, lighting up the public area in a joyful blaze of fluorescent colours that characterize her work.
“It’s the first time in 30 years that I’ve actually stopped somewhere on a semi-permanent basis, and it has allowed me to focus and remain strong inside,” says Arianna, who describes herself a “nomad and citizen of the world” who finds inspiration in the cultures colours of the East.
Apart from those vivid hues, the other constant theme and her most famous motif are huge bouquets of flowers – some real, others fanciful, but always bold and resplendent. A Bangkok printer with a high-tech scanning machine transfers those bold images on to a range of different materials – cotton, canvas, chiffon and paper, while a local tailor makes the finished garments to extremely demanding specifications.
The result is a memorable collection of what Arianna calls “wearable art” in one of Bangkok’s most colourful boutiques created by one of the city’s most colourful characters. – Colin Hastings
How Anne passed her test in making artistic school bag
By Ruth Gerso
Ater training as an interior decorator and then plying her profession successfully in France for eight years, Anne Andre suddenly found her life coming to an abrupt halt when her husband was assigned by the Airbus Company to a position in Thailand.
As it happens so often, women have to learn to recreate themselves when they follow their spouses to new destinations. At times, it seems to be a blessing in disguise as new opportunities arise with such upheavals.
Working hard in France left little time for herself or building a family. “There was no time for kids,” she says. This was rapidly remedied, however, when she “grabbed the opportunity” in 2007 and moved with her husband to Thailand, the land of comfort and domestic support, where she gave birth to four children in a five-year period.
The family’s six-year Thai sojourn ended in 2013 with a move to Jakarta for three years, followed by two years in Singapore, then back to Bangkok in 2018.
Once resettled in Bangkok, Anne put her entrepreneurial talents to work. Noticing that many schools have bags with their logo on them, Anne came up with the idea of creating more attractive and functional design, basing it on the classic French bag that is broad rather than the usual long shape.
As a trial, Anne designed school bags for her children. These colorful creations received so much attention and praise that her friends urged her to share her talent with others and go into professional production.
Anne hunts in the local markets for suitable materials for her bags, buying mostly water resistant PVC and polyester.
A great advantage of these bags is their light weight, with small bags weighing a mere 800 grams while the larger ones weigh 950 grams. Environmentally conscious, she wants to find suitable recycled materials for her bags, a goal that she has not yet fulfilled.
To support local workers and artisans, Anne uses existing workshops that produce leather bags, and they have adapted to work on the production of her new line of bags. To understand what goes into making such products Anne took lessons from a bag specialist. “It took me a whole year to produce just two bags, so I missed the beginning of the school season.” That was in 2018.
First production of bags was in the summer of 2019, ready for sale at the start of the new school year. There were 80 units available in six models and sixteen colors.
In accordance with our digital times, she receives website orders from Singapore and France as well as here in Thailand..
A new item in the collection is what she calls the ‘baby gift box.’ These come in pink for girls, blue for boys and red, which is a popular color in Asia. The gift boxes hold items designed by Anne for both mother and baby, most of them handmade. For little ones are booties, bibs, teething ring, a blanket and more, while tucked away is a gift necklace for the mother.
Owning her small business, Anne wants it to be above board. Legally registered, she avoids the mass production of big name brands, and tries to pay attention to those who supply the basic products.
Many of those involved in the bag production are rice farmers who do this work to supplement their meagre income. Her policy is to follow what is known as ‘fair trade’ while still learning how to implement it.
Although just breaking even at this stage, as most businesses do in their first year or two, Anne still puts a small sum aside for charity. She supports the ‘Imagine for Margo’ fund for children’s cancer research and hospital treatment in France.
This interest stems from Anne’s early childhood, recalling her experience while ill in hospital herself. It’s something that has never
left her subconscious. She feels that now she can do her bit to help sick children.
What are Anne’s hopes and plans for the future? She
would like to have her own air-conditioned, environmentally friendly workshop - her products are currently made in individual homes. She’d also like to complete the catalogue she’s working on right now.
Most importantly, she would like to ensure the future of her business and that of her workers.
Anne’s brand “Little Froggies Supplies” is registered in France but she aspires for a wider network of global markets, adding one place at a time, and aiming at the individual market rather than mass markets. She may well succeed.