Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jim Thompson- Thai silk King-

While in Thailand, I had the great pleasure to visit Jim Thompson's house. I was fascinated by the person and his original background. His house and his foundation in Bangkok reminded me of Yves Saint Laurent's Majorelle's gardens in Marrakech.
Jim Thompson, born March 21st 1906, was an American architect who helped revitalize Thailand's silk and textile industry in the 1950s and 1960s. Armed with samples of silk, Thompson went to New York. He approached the editor of Vanity Fair, Frank Crowninshield, who was the only person Thompson knew who was in any way connected to the fashion industry. He obtained an introduction to Edna Woolman Chase, at the time editor of Vogue, and general arbiter of all good taste in the world of fashion. According to the legend, Mrs Chase took one look at the lengths of Ban Krua silk spread out across her desk, and fell in love. Within weeks a dress in the new material by Valentina, the New York designer, graced the pages of Vogue. Thai silk was "in". Jim Thompson was on his way to a personal fortune, and the Cham weavers of Ban Krua were about to achieve a new prosperity. 

Jim Thompson was on trip to the highlands to visit some friends and the fact that he left his cigarettes and a small silver 'jungle box' on the chair outside Moonlight Cottage where he was staying suggests that he had not planned to be gone for long. 
Thompson was never seen again, and the theories for his disappearance are many, some plausible and others complex and far-fetched. 
Many believe that he was kidnapped for his previous involvement in spying activities. However it is more likely that he was eaten by a tiger, murdered in a botched robbery or fell into an aboriginal animal trap (a pit with a spike) and buried by the Orang Asli when they discovered what had happened. Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain Thompson's disappearance, and there were some reported sightings of him after his disappearance, but what happened to him still remains one of the greater unsolved mysteries of Southeast Asia.

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