School is just a half-day on Saturdays here, so in the afternoon the Siam Centre, the nearest thing to Georgetown Park, is jammed with kids in school uniforms. (The girls are in white middy blouses and navy skirts, the boys in khaki shorts or trousers with white shirts.) The big attraction in this spare structure in midtown Bangkok is the shops on the third floor and particularly the window of La Fore t, where a videotape of the last Issey Miyake show is being shown. There aren't many Miyake clothes inside the shop, but that seems to make little difference since no one could get through the crowd to buy them anyway.
The big appeal with the fashion crowd here is the Japanese cut of clothes -- oversized, square-cut shapes of which Miyake is the best example. A few of the shops have Kenzo blouses but most of the boutiques feature Thai designers doing their variations on the Japenese look.
There's a Calvin Klein shop in Bangkok and that should surprise even Calvin Klein. They've painted his name in the plaster above the door of the corner shop, but inside the clothes and the labels have nothing to do with the New York designer. Nearby is another shop called Saks Fashions (Fifth Avenue). It's all part of the Thai preoccupation with labels and a way of showing worldliness and wealth. Lots of phony labels show up inside shoes, belts and bags.
The flashing of brands seems to work wonders on the tourists here. Endless vendors peddle shirts with alligators -- a scrawny variation of the real thing -- and cotton knit polo shirts with embroidered polo players; deep red leather items with the Cartier emblem stamped on them and fake Dunhill belts and bags.
The "Lacoste" shirts sold on the street in Bangkok, all sized in S, M and L, are actually all size small and while they say pure cotton, in perfect French they are really synthetic. The price ranges from $3 to $6 and the best customers are the "Ferengs," as foreigners here are known. "Of course they aren't cotton," says a vendor, whose shirts are pinned on a fence near the posh Oriental Hotel. "How could I sell cotton at this price?"
There's a tailor in Bangkok who calls himself God. The suits aren't very interesting but he has a few clients who can't resist the label "handmade by God."
The Thais are masters at copying things but they like to add their own special touches. Given the chance they'll flare the trousers, add Pellon thickening in the collar and a few extra tucks around the waist.
A shop the guidebook won't tell you about is called Puberty, a boutique for young teen-agers. There was apparently some confusion when the owner translated the Thai word for "adolescent" into English.
It's jasmine season in Bangkok and the big items at the moment are garlands made of jasmine, roses and a white flower shaped liked temple roofs. The price is negotiable but runs about three for 50 cents and gets cheaper as the day moves on, since the flowers don't last a second day. Guests at the the airport are often greeted by the garlands and others use them to put on pillows, hang over a rear-view mirror or decorate temples (if it is used for worship it must not be smelled first).