The Cloud x British Council

Alison Welsh was a regular in the front row of London Fashion Week.

In the eighties, she was one of the Knights of the Long Table, predicting the colours of the forthcoming fashion season two years ahead.

She collected photos from fashion shows as quickly as possible, to gain inspiration and learn about the influence of culture on British fashion, and compiled a book of the latest trends, newest colours and designs and sold them all over the world.

She was a fashion consultant for many big fashion companies producing jeans or sportswear. She gave them information and reassured them they were on the right track.

Fashion was fast, but Alison was faster. She knew which colours designers would use, or saw the shirt collar before they even sketched it.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

All of that happened more than 30 years ago when Alison was fully immersed in the fashion business. When she decided to start a family, Alison moved away from London to work as a fashion design instructor at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Nowadays she travels all around the world. One of her tasks for the British Council is to teach young Thai designers and develop handwoven textiles in the Nan Province.

The day we met in the Pua District, Nan Province, Alison wasn’t wearing anything ultra-modern. On the contrary, she wore a handwoven Indian cotton dress which she got 10 years ago, and was very proud of.

The Head of Fashion Research at MMU hasn’t turned her back on pretty clothes, but she is so certain that the fashion business which is the second dirtiest industry in the world next to Big Oil will eventually lead to craft and become environmentally responsible.

“The fashion world will slow down — this is our only path since we don’t have another planet to spare.”

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

Before working here, I’ve heard that your previous job was great fun.

I was working in fashion trend prediction. I was not quite comfortable with the word “prediction” because it sounds like a mystical thing. Actually, my work was based on facts, gathering information and making decisions.

In the early eighties, Jean-Paul Gaultier was a big influence. His fashion show was a theatrical extravaganza but still very trendy. When I was younger, I would sit in the front row and take photographs of fashion shows. I would absorb and digest that information. My predictions were quite accurate, especially for menswear since the change is quite small. It’s easy to say next year the colour is going to change from a subtle grey to a warmer grey, the collar will get smaller or suits will be double-breasted.

I worked closely with big companies. They would come and talk to me every season. I would do presentations 18 months ahead of the season, or two years for colour. I never knew what year it was because my brain was always a few years ahead.

Why did you have to start work so early prior to the season?

Colour is the first thing in the season and the most interesting because when you choose the colour, you give it to the textile mills, and they then weave the clothes. The textile mills need at least six months to weave.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

How did you predict fashion?

I always had an eye for designers introducing new works, influential films, exhibitions, music or even poetry. I would be looking at a broad range of influences on fashion and colours. In England, I used to go to a colour group meeting with people who worked in the textile industry. We would meet and decide twice a year what colour to use in the next season.

I was probably the youngest person at the meeting. The day before I would collect information; I would buy books on painting, or anything else that inspired me because we had no internet. I would refer to an exhibition I saw in Paris or Florence.

We would sit around a long table and wait for our turn to explain our thinking to the others. When we sat down, the first person expresses their thoughts, and then the next, and so on. By the time six people had taken their turn, it became very interesting because there would be similarities between them. Some might say warm grey and a touch of brown and the next person would say they had grey too. I’ve been looking at concrete and hard surfaces and urban landscape. Somebody else would say they had been looking at architecture and white and grey.

Although our own research was conducted instinctively, by the time all those very knowledgeable people had come together, the result was very interesting. After the meeting, the group would collect all the information and publish a British colour card, and that went into an international group where all the different countries matched. The Japanese, British, Italian and French would all meet and do the same thing. From there, the international colour card would be published and sold at Premier Vision — a big textile fair in Paris.

Do these countries still have a colour group meeting?

They still do it nowadays but there is no longer a trend book. A lot of people kept those expensive books. They’re full of design ideas. I would draw ideas and publish images, details, technical information and trend pages. Companies in Japan, America, Australia and England used to buy them.

Now we live in a completely different world. Everything is on the internet instantly. Burberry did livestream years ago.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

Can we predict fashion now?

I don’t think we can do it anymore. Silhouettes, shapes and skirt lengths belong to the past. Now anything goes and people can wear whatever they like — something from 10 years, 20 years or 30 years ago and nobody cares.

What is the current fashion trend?

People are looking at different things now. Fast fashion is cheap and affordable, especially for young people. In England at the moment, online companies are doing very well. Very often young kids will buy six outfits, and have them delivered to the house the next day. Kids can try six things on, choose which one they want to keep and send the rest back.

A lot of companies are looking at methods of dissuading customers from sending so much back. If it fits the body really well, customers are unlikely to send it back because they look great in it. Many companies invest a great deal in making garments fit properly. They measure hundreds of size 8 women — it’s both difficult and interesting.

The problem is there are those who want to buy something really cheap from a store. They can wear it that night and never again because it looks good on Instagram or for a particular occasion.

I can understand that. When I was young I made my own clothes. I understand the need for instantaneous change and the excitement of wearing something new all the time. Most people get bored with their wardrobe or what they are wearing — I used to, but don’t anymore.


If you keep something for longer you go through a barrier whereby you become less bored with it. You start to love it again. I got this dress 10 years ago and I’m happy to wear it today, even more than I was 10 years ago because I kept it and looked after it.

The research on why people keep garments in their wardrobes is fascinating. It could influence the next design that comes along. People have garments in their wardrobes that they love and never throw away, we keep them for a reason. It might be sentimental, practical, might just fit really well or might be great for every occasion.

In the past, we were embarrassed to keep things for a long time. Now we can start to be proud of them and happy to be able to still wear them.

Alison Welsh อดีตนักทำนายเทรนด์แฟชั่นอังกฤษ ที่ผันตัวมาออกแบบผ้าทอมือไทย

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

If we wear only old clothes then fashion is not predictable anymore. What does the future hold for the fashion business?

The big companies around the world have a department to take care of social responsibility. They’re looking at the future of the fashion business. People are finding a way to reduce the amount of waste. H&M has sustainable projects. They have a big competition on sustainability, and people who are not in the fashion world can apply. They support projects so they can move on. That’s a very clear statement.

Some designers have started to appreciate that and want to produce something to pass on to the next generation with a life beyond the weaver; made slowly, carefully and hand stitched. You can see the love that goes into it. You can feel the spirit of the maker in the items. An exquisite handmade skirt is something you will never throw away. You just know from the minute you look at it that it will pass on from one generation to another.

I was always afraid to wear something made of organic cotton with massive hand stitches but that had to stop. If you have something, you have to wear it. The handwoven natural dyed clothes will fade gently and softly. They are getting better as time goes by, and look better after 10 years — like a pair of jeans.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

How do you know that Slow Fashion is a coming trend?

Years ago, if you went to buy a loaf of bread in Paris, you would just see a smart, pristine bakery but now the oven is in the centre of the shop, and you can see the man making the bread. You can smell the bread, look at the baker, shake his hand and talk about how he made the bread, the flour he used, even the time he got up in the morning.

The craft of food is really obvious now. Not everywhere, but there is an understanding of where the ham came from, or which mill produced the flour in Italy. It is on the label and we can see it.

I think the clothing and fashion industry are not far away from that. People are waking up and beginning to realise the potential of buying handmade or handcrafted items. The food industry is probably 10 years ahead of the fashion industry. We can learn from their achievements. We can absorb their methods. Food has not suddenly become organic or ethical. It’s about every person making an effort to be organic. A move to become responsible in farming. If everybody does a little bit, we move on.

We just need people who really make a difference. Part of that is working directly with makers or cutting down waste. These fabrics are handwoven. It’s a crime to cut them off.

One of the young designers is trying to make a dress without cutting it at all. That is just one small example in Thailand. I have no doubt there are a lot of similar examples all around the world, where people are looking at how to stop wasting fabric and throwing things away because there has to be a future. It has to work that way.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

How do you develop the Pua District’s handwoven cotton?

The fabric we have there has potential. Some of it has been used to make a lovely lightweight coat. It is quite light because it is handwoven and quite warm too.

Now we are working with natural dyes because it is part of the heritage of the region. The countryside in the Pua District has been used for natural dyes or weaving fabric. Ginger fibre or banana bark can turn into fibre for use in bags or clothes. They are organic and wearable. There is knowledge about using trees, and each tree has a value. The rambutan bush can be used for dyeing; banana trees for weaving.

Gradually we are growing used to natural dyes here because they’re slipping away. I’ve been discussing with local artisans about colours that hurt the eyes and colours that are gentle. Chemical dye is easy, affordable and doesn’t run. It gives a strong colour, whereas natural dyes are soft and gentle to the eyes.

Natural colours are so gentle, even the brightest pink obtained from plants is still gentle. You hardly have to make a colour card because natural colours have something in common. It’s quite easy to make it work. They’re already matched.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

What made you come back to Thailand to help these communities?

It’s fantastic to work internationally and I like working with young designers. Part of my job here is to encourage young people to get involved in heritage and tradition. The weavers here are getting older and older — their skills are highly developed, really technical and very sophisticated.

If we turn our backs on heritage and traditions, they will disappear. I don’t want to be too nostalgic because in Britain we lost our handcrafting skills a hundred years ago through the industrial revolution. The whole of Manchester was full of cotton mills before beautiful apartments replaced them.

Dynamic women are running the business here and the community revolves around them. I’m thriving in many ways and it’s fantastic to be here. It’s a real joy to work on a project like this. You can see people really benefiting.

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

ผ้าทอ, น่าน

Crafting Futures supports the future of craft around the globe. This British Council programme strengthens economic, social and cultural development through learning and access. The Crafting Futures project supports practices and people, through research, collaboration and education. For more information, Click here

Here is the list of all the local brands Alison gave her design lessons.

Phaeo Phafai

Facebook | แพวผ้าฝ้าย น่าน
Tel. 089-851-8918

Baan Donchai

Tel. 086-115-8424, 081-366-7323

Baan Sala

Tel. 087-249-8112


Facebook |
Tel.  080-104-7150, 085-717-7494

Krit Boutique

Facebook |   Krit   Boutique
Tel. 085-106-9357

RuayBoon Natural Textile

Facebook |   รวยบุญ ผ้าธรรมชาติ : RuayBoon Natural Textile


ภัทรียา พัวพงศกร

บรรณาธิการและนักจัดทริปแห่ง The Cloud ที่สนใจตึกเก่า งานคราฟต์ กลิ่น และละครเวทีพอๆ กับการเดินทาง


นินทร์ นรินทรกุล ณ อยุธยา

นินทร์ชอบถ่ายรูปมาตั้งแต่เด็ก พ่อแม่ซื้อฟิล์มให้ไม่ยั้ง ตื่นเต้นกับเสียงชัตเตอร์เสมอต้นเสมอปลาย เพื่อนชอบชวนไปทะเล ไม่ใช่เพราะนินทร์น่าคบเพียงอย่างเดียวแน่นอน :)

Crafting Futures


The Cloud x British Council

Those who have heard of Chiang Mai Design Week will know that it is an annual festival, bringing together the artistic talents of local designers, artisans, artists, and entrepreneurs in the creative industry. This year, we had an opportunity to visit the festival which was held under the concept of “Stay Safe, Stay Alive, Live Happy”. 

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

As we entered the exhibition, a mirror captured our attention and gave us inspiration.

This fascinating exhibition is a collaboration between the British Council and Fashion Revolution—a network which aims to revolutionise the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future. Their message to everyone is that clothing, global warming, society, and the economy are all related.

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop
Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

We talked to Patcharawee Tunprawat (Jay) from the British Council—the UK’s international organisation for culture and educational opportunities, and Kamonnart Ongwandee (Ung), a representative from Fashion Revolution, about the exhibition entitled Homegrown, and Circular Design Lab: Closing the Loops, suggesting that the solution to climate change is circular design.


Global Warming VS Fashion

In response to a year of environmental changes, the British Council collaborated with Fashion Revolution for the Chiang Mai Design Week to raise awareness among young people concerning the impact of fashion on climate change. 

“The British Council has been working with craft entrepreneurs and artisan networks for a while. In 2021, the United Kingdom and Italy will co-host the COP26—a global United Nations summit on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland. We would like to engage with future generations through our work to make people aware that the environment is relevant to everyone.” Jay said.

Ung acts as Thailand’s network coordinator and began by explaining the concept behind the Fashion Revolution. “We first started in the UK and brought together a network of designers. We are now beginning to recognise the impact of fashion on the environment, society, labour, and fairness in the supply chain. The network is gradually expanding and includes many volunteers around the world. We try to raise awareness in all sectors, brands, consumers, and everyone involved in driving a sustainable fashion industry.” 

We communicate our message through activities, such as by participating in the exhibition and workshop during Chiang Mai Design Week this year.

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

British Council and Fashion Revolution are working together at the international level. This enables us to work closely in Thailand with future generations to explore and find a way to tackle climate change through circular design.

Before we talk about the solution, we should mention the challenges faced by the fashion industry. Why do fashion designs or clothing have such an impact on climate change and why do we need to talk about it? Understand the context, and the purpose of this exhibition will become clear. 

Ung explained. “Now in Thailand, when we talk about global warming, we only think of plastic straws and plastic bags because they are clear examples of waste. We don’t see clothes as waste but in fact, a massive amount of waste on the Earth is generated by clothes.”

“Actually, most people don’t realise that we are responsible for climate change, in the way we dress or the things we use every day. For example, yesterday one visitor viewing the exhibition said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that buying a pair of jeans means more than 3,700 litres of water is wasted.’ The fashion industry is one of the most environmentally damaging.” Jay added.

Therefore, with this exhibition and workshop, the British Council and Fashion Revolution are making an effort to raise awareness of the way fashion is consumed.

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop


Circular Design

According to statistics, we only wear 25% of the clothes we own. We keep too many things, even though they no longer spark joy in us.

Ung relayed the shocking truth. “In our wardrobe, there are a lot of garments we don’t wear. The fashion industry as a whole has quite an impact on the environment. At the global level, its impact is greater than all airlines combined—since fashion items are now being produced across the world, resulting in considerable carbon loss. A significant amount of carbon dioxide is produced through the manufacturing process and transportation. Cotton production uses many chemicals, while the water used during the process of textile bleaching and dyeing is polluted and released back into nature.”

To provide a wider picture, the fashion industry produces 20% of global wastewater. The manufacture of one pair of jeans requires almost three years’ worth of drinking water.         

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

“Plastic is also a key concern. Apart from cotton, the most popular fibre is polyamide. About 60% of today’s clothing contains polyester. Every time we do the laundry, microfibres or tiny strands of plastic we cannot see are discharged from effluent pipes into the ocean, eventually returning to us on our plates.” 

At this point, most people will have heard of microplastics in mackerel and other aquatic animals but may not know that some of those microplastics come from our clothes.

“Only 1% of the clothes we wear will be recycled. The rest will be wasted. When clothes go to landfill, they contribute to global warming. Aerobic bacteria grows on the clothes, generating greenhouse gases. Everything in the fashion industry has an impact on the real world and we want everyone to know that.”

This is why there is a mirror at the entrance to the exhibition. The team behind it want us, the people, to examine our clothes and what they do to the global environment.

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

So what is the solution to this problem? Jay provides the answer. “Craft is the solution to the problem. Crafts are from nature, cotton or natural fibres in natural colours. They are durable and stay in the system for a long time. Many people may not know how the use of natural products can help to solve climate change. The new generation may not be able to connect with crafts or don’t know where to buy them. Or maybe they retain the image that crafts are old-fashioned and not for the younger generation. Thus, this is our goal. We want metropolitans and the younger generation to know more about handicrafts in modern designs.”

 “This includes the understanding of circular design or a design that mimics the life cycle of nature and looks like a circle. Clothes are normally seen as linear. They are produced, used, and thrown away. However, the circular concept is an effort to return clothes to the soil, make them biodegradable or recycle items as much as possible.”

“Integrated thinking comes from the concept of a circular economy which addresses global issues. If we want the resources to meet the needs of the people, we need two worlds with a conventional linear economy. Circular design redefines the economic potential of resources through a new model. We just need to change the way we consume and the world will be better.” Ung added.

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop



“We named the exhibition ‘Homegrown’ because we thought of the word eco, which is derived from the Greek language, meaning home. We chose this word as the concept of the event. By reconnecting with home, community, and nature, we will be able to find a solution to climate change. The main idea is a circular design, starting from home, planting near home, and after decomposition, returning to the system.” Ung told us.

Through this exhibition, we can see the impact of fashion on global warming and how quickly the fashion we consume creates a linear effect. Solutions are also proposed. Sustainable designs will not leave any burden on the world.

“I received a scholarship from the British Council and studied circular design in the UK for about a week with friends from six Southeast Asian countries. They see crafts as the solution—it’s the local wisdom, and similar to what we already know (laughs). It’s our tradition. It is very Buddhist. The cycle of life is not invincible. One day, everything will decompose, return to the soil, and become useful once again. Now, crafts are becoming the future of design. Designers around the world are returning to crafts.”

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

“I received a scholarship from the British Council and studied circular design in the UK for about a week with friends from six Southeast Asian countries. They see crafts as the solution—it’s the local wisdom, and similar to what we already know (laughs). It’s our tradition. It is very Buddhist. The cycle of life is not invincible. One day, everything will decompose, return to the soil, and become useful once again. Now, crafts are becoming the future of design. Designers around the world are returning to crafts.”

Circular design is different from eco-design. It is a complete closed-loop thinking process from start to finish. When one item completes its lifecycle, what will it return as?

“Circular design exists in our local communities. If we make it happen across Thailand, each community in every city will achieve sustainability. What will happen if we don’t need to import fabrics? We can support the community to grow plants for fibres and support craftsmen and seamstresses. The community will be strong.”

“The products chosen for the exhibition are mostly from brands that actually work with the community or associated with community members, rather than just from a one-off designer visiting the community.”

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

A variety of brands were displayed at the Crafting Futures project such as Tai Lue, Wanita, Bhukram, and FolkCharm, to illustrate green fashion that we could support.

Jay, who reached out and travelled to meet this group of designers, told us. “For example, FolkCharm work with a community that grows and weaves organic cotton in Loei Province. They created a local impact on the community they work with. We would like FolkCharm to inspire young designers interested in following this path.”

“As for Tai Lue, they work with weavers and want to minimise waste in the production process. Usually, when making a dress, the pattern creates some waste. This group came up with a pattern that weavers can make money from and leaves no waste. Moreover, they invented a weaving technique to create a pattern.”

“It will develop into innovation. The local crafts carried out by the villagers are safe, and not at all harmful to this world.”

Finally, at the end of the exhibition, we found a table where visitors could sit and spend time designing clothes for paper dolls. Many people might think this is just a children’s activity but it is actually another step towards encouraging young designers who care about the world.

“They were given the task ‘Design Your Future Dress’ after exploring the exhibition. We let them design clothes for the world they want to live in. We prepared flowers and leaves for them to create clothes. When people are doing arts and crafts, they start conversations. Ultimately, they realise that climate change and social issues are connected.”


Circular Design Labs

Besides the exhibition, a platform for sustainable fashion is open to the public, and another activity created by the team is a workshop for artisans and designers. Ung developed this workshop from her experience at the design camp organised by the British Council in 2018.

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

“It’s a circular design workshop but we focus more on sharing thinking processes for sustainability. This is something I learnt from the Circular Futures Lab, which at the time was a collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation—an organisation for promoting the circular economy globally.” 

“They asked designers how they could meet user needs without harming the world. We usually think if we want to meet human needs, we have to harm the world in one way or another, right? But the circular design principles fill the gaps here. We learnt about the thinking process and principles from the beginning to end, which are similar to those of design but with the addition of sustainability principles.”

In human-centric startups, working to meet the needs of a target group, design thinking may feel like a common term but for a sustainable designer, the term is different.

“Design thinking is very popular since it is human-centred, and relates only to meeting consumer needs. It just serves humans. However, the circular design invites us to think about how to meet human needs without using more and more resources.”

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

“For example, a shirt made from different materials is very problematic for the recycling process, since natural and human-made materials such as zippers and buttons are mixed, but this problem can be solved by using circular design. It requires the designer to consider at the beginning how these things will be disassembled or separated. The designer must make sure from the start that there will be no waste and think of new materials to use. I want to share and exchange knowledge with young designers at the Chiang Mai Design Week.”


Human Collaboration for Fashion 

Whether you visit our exhibition or not, you may realise that awareness without action could not save the world. Therefore, your action could simply start through fashion.

“To support sustainable fashion, the chosen brand must have a positive impact on the environment and society like the brands we share, which help support the community. Designers can sell their creativity. It’s like buying a unique piece of art. The clothes we buy can tell a story. Recently, people have started to feel that brand names may not be as chic as crafts.”

“Consumers can gradually reduce their purchases and wear the same item repeatedly. One shirt can last for 25 years. Craftsmen also wear shirts they weaved 20 years ago. It is a completely different concept from fast fashion. The older garments are more beautiful. The more it is used, the softer it becomes. The value will increase over time, the Japanese people call it— Wabi-Sabi and it’s chic.”

Learn about circular design for the fashion industry through the Chiang Mai Design Week exhibition and workshop

Jay agreed and saw that for other countries, crafts are viewed as works of art, full of the creativity which has been passed down for generations. “In Thailand, people generally see crafts as works by villagers and do not mind asking for a discount. This concept actually reduces the value of their work. Consequently, craft people do not want to continue. Consumers can determine the direction and trend of production—encourage the artisans and they will have more pride in their crafts.”

Giving support to artisans in communities is one thing, but Ung said that we, as consumers, have many other options.

“Thinking about sustainable clothing isn’t just about buying clothes from sustainable brands, there are other options. The easiest step is to look back and see what we already have in our wardrobes and try to mix and match.”

“There are a lot of clothes we don’t wear but still keep because we are bored or cannot find new ways to match them. We buy clothes according to the trend so they get old quickly. If we can match new looks, we won’t buy more. It is called the capsule wardrobe, a challenge that asks you to create 30 looks for 30 days with just 12 clothing items. It is fun and women around the world are interested in this idea.”

“If you want a new shirt, you don’t have to buy one. Let’s swap our clothes. It’s an activity the Fashion Revolution is working on. We invite people to exchange the clothes in their wardrobes.”

Apart from swapping clothes, borrowing or renting clothes is becoming a new business concept in the fashion industry. For old clothes, try repairing and modifying before throwing them away. 

You can be a part of a sustainable fashion society. Don’t wait any longer. Let’s start revolutionising the fashion industry and saving the world at the same time.


ฉัตรชนก ชโลธรพิเศษ

ชาวนนทบุเรี่ยน ชอบเขียน และกำลังฝึกเขียนอย่างพากเพียร มีความหวังจะได้เป็นเซียน ในเรื่องขีดๆ เขียนๆ สักวันหนึ่ง


ชัยวัฒน์ ทาสุรินทร์

โด้เป็นช่างภาพดาวรุ่งจากสาขาศิลปะการถ่ายภาพ คณะวิจิตรศิลป์ มหาวิทยาลัยเชียงใหม่ เป็นที่รักของเพื่อนๆ และสาวๆ ถึงกับมีคนก่อตั้งเพจแฟนคลับให้เขา ชื่อว่า 'ไอ้โด้ FC'



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