Tourists looking at elephant pants at a market in Thailand.

Chulalongkorn Scholar Invites Young Designers to Ride on ‘Elephant Pants’ Wave

“Elephant Pants” that have become a popular item among Thais and foreign tourists right now, not only reflect Thainess through clothing, but also show a mixture of culture and folk wisdom that is transformed into a creative product with added value. The pants are a good example of an integration of textile knowledge and designs to develop a product that meets the needs of both domestic and international markets. Prof. Dr. Patcha U-Tiswannakul, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, Chulalongkorn University, and Head of the Fashion and Creative Arts Research Unit, is inviting everyone to discover the wonders of the Elephant Pants through the lens of fashion academia.

Thai Elephant-Patterned Pants Copyrighted

Prof. Dr. Patcha U-Tiswannakul, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts.
Prof. Dr. Patcha U-Tiswannakul, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts. Photo: Chulalongkorn University.

From Textile Knowledge to Product Line

Prof. Dr. Patcha said that the “Elephant Pants” not only reflect the concept of Thainess through the elephant patterns, but also demonstrate a combination of local wisdom and modern designs. The fabric is airy cotton, which is suitable for Thailand’s heat, making the pants a comfortable and stylish product. Several variations have been developed, including shorts, pants, and joggers, catering to various customer groups. The different colors, e.g., red, green, black, blue, also appeal to its customers and make the pants unique.

“The production of the Elephant Pants is constantly evolving, resulting in the development towards creative economy. The pants have gone from being souvenirs to being a fashion staple for foreigners in multiple occasions, from strolling around the market to shopping in the department store. It is considered a Thai charm that can be worn with confidence,” said Prof. Dr. Patcha.

Elephant pants of Thai design and tailoring.
Elephant pants of Thai design and tailoring. Photo: Chulalongkorn University.

Thai Trend: the “Elephant Pants,” a Must-Have Fashion Item!

Prof. Dr. Patcha stated that the sales and popularity of the Elephant Pants among Thais and foreigners are a testament to the success of this fashion item. In this regard, support from the government to improve the quality, including better patterns and production process, will boost the product towards international standards.

Quality assurance and strong branding will create jobs for the community as well as create added value to Thai culture. With the Elephant Pants being a trendy item, this is an important step to enhance Thai businesses and culture.

A girl wearing elephant pants drags a travel suitcase at a train station.
A girl wearing elephant pants drags a travel suitcase at a train station. Photo: Chulalongkorn University.

To sustainably develop the Elephant Pants, we need to focus on making the product unique with sustainable, quality materials and collaborating with the communities to create unique designs for each locale. In addition, there need to be strong branding, strategic marketing, and effective market penetration through storytelling about Thai culture.

“To make the Elephant Pants truly international, we need to appeal employ to the global consumer using the essence of Thailand. The design must be suitable for every age group and should tell the story of Thai heritage. Using a sustainable production method, we can maintain authenticity by working with local craftsmen, while reaching wider target consumers with creative marketing. As a result, the Elephant Pants will become a new lifestyle choice for people of all ages around the world,”
suggested Prof. Dr. Patcha.

Capitalizing on a Crisis to Add Value to Thai Products

With the concern over the Chinese entering the Elephant Pants market in Thailand, Prof. Dr. Patcha sees this not as a crisis, but an opportunity. Increased production indicates high popularity, so we should focus on more creativity and added value to differentiate Thai products in the global market.

“The Elephant Pants have become a significant fashion item among tourists and the new generation. Thus, turning the pants from mere souvenirs to fashion icons is a way to turn a crisis into an opportunity, making the product part of the creative economy.”

Foreigners looking at elephant pants at a market in Thailand.
Foreigners looking at elephant pants at a market in Thailand. Photo: Chulalongkorn University.

Suggestions on Enhancing Cultural Products as a Form of Soft Power

Prof. Dr. Patcha recommended that the Thai government recognize the Elephant Pants as a Soft Power by featuring them in cultural activities, supporting local craftsmen, promoting the product in international fashion events, and sharing the origin and sustainability of the Elephant Pants on digital platforms. This will improve Thailand’s image and support the local economy. Towards this end, the government should provide high power machines to increase production capacity and hire locals to stimulate the economy and create more jobs. Support could also be requested from the public sector and entrepreneurs. “Anything that can be done to create more demand so that the profits can return to the community and new designers.”

Chula Emphasizes on the Effort to Drive the Thai Economy with Thai Soft Power

“The new generation of designers have been tasked with developing the symbols of Thailand. Academically, restricting the production of the Elephant Pants may generate knowledge but does not translate into value in the industry. With a low number of items produced, the product will become collectibles rather than growing sustainably. Now that the ‘wave’ of the Elephant Pants trend has been created, we need to seize this opportunity to develop further. The new designers should expand on this phenomenon, creating value through patterns that reflect identity and making the product more creative. The Elephant Pants still have a long way to go,” concluded Prof. Dr. Patcha.

By Chulalongkorn University

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