• Christian-A-Haas-Pieces-Dash-Magazine
    Christian A Haas, 'Pieces'
  • Cigar-Box-KOSTIA-Dash-Magazine
    KOSTIA, Cigar Box
  • Creations-Parcthai-1-CDC-Dash-Magazine
    Parcthai, 'Creations'
  • Creations-Parcthai-CDC-Dash-Magazine
    Parcthai, 'Creations'
  • Incense burner-Benoît-Astier-de Villatte-Dash-Magazine
    Benoít Astier de Villatte, Incense Burner
  • Jean-Richard-Watch-CDC-Dash-Magazine
    Jean Richard, Watch
  • Motorbike-HCC-CDC-Dash-Magazine
    HCC, Motorbike
  • P-Tendercool-Ping-Pong-Dash-Magazine
    P Tendercool, Ping Pong Chair
  • Wallet-TJIKKO-Dash-Magazine
    TJIKKO, Wallet


The Cabinet de Curiosités of Thomas Erber (CDC) is an annual travelling pop-up store and exhibition curated by Frenchman Thomas Erber, an international, highly prestigious brand consultant and former lifestyle journalist, who celebrates innovation in creative fields from fashion, jewellery and fine watchmaking to art, music or photography. Former editions of CDC have opened their doors in, amongst others, Berlin, Paris and NYC in collaboration with concept-store owners such as Colette, Browns, Andreas Murkudis or Maison Kitsuné.

Last week saw the opening of the fifth and biggest ever edition in Bangkok presented this time round by Siwilai, a chic multi-brand Thai retail concept store, in the recently opened and actually not quite finished Central Embassy luxury shopping mall (the Park Hyatt on the top floors is yet to finish construction). Siwilai derives from the Thai word for civilisation and, as Central Embassy owner Barom Bhicharnchitr elaborates, its mission is to give more space to stores and entertainment, connecting food, fashion, art and architecture. With the brand-new mall he envisioned pushing local tenants with new concepts to rent next to big international brands and provide state-of-the-art technology in the five cinemas. Indeed, as my colleague Luca Sofri from Vanity Fair and il.Post found by trying out, the cinemas are more like a serviced lounge for a maximum of 30 people in sleek style, though the National Anthem is sung standing before each screening as in ordinary Thai movies.

As over the last few years Thai customers have become more and more interested in seeing something different than the big brands, as Barom puts it, he made sure 60% of the stores at Central Embassy, one of them the Water Library, are local:
“This restaurant serves a maximum of ten diners per night, charges them big bucks for the privilege and doesn’t let them even select what or when they’re eating. They’ve also assembled a dream team of mixologists, chefs and wait staff from all over the world to make it happen and use only the very best imported ingredients to boot,” says our guide by CDC, which does not really tempt me to go there, though the place looks exclusive and thought-through.

Thomas’s curation generally includes a roster of fixed brands selected for the individual edition, as well as local brands. Asked how he goes about his research process for the inclusion of work, he explains: ”

In short, the idea of Barom’s concept store appealed to me very much. Barom believed in the project and it’s become the so far most ambitious edition of the Cabinet. It’s taken a full year and today Siwilai is becoming one of the leading concept stores in the world, offering much more than just retail but also cultural exchange, design, art and fashion. That’s also the core idea of the Cabinet de Curiosités of Thomas Erber. Turn on the light and let’s begin the tour!”

Now how did the collaboration come about? Thomas recalls the beginning of CDC as being a chain reaction, which started at colette in Paris. The first CDC edition, an exploration of art and design, counted just 26 contributors. Only after that did he decide to do one per year. As a journalist he met plenty of people from all over the world, who he went to see. “I got to like a person, what they are doing and how. Nowadays I receive many phone calls with suggestions, but when choosing I say: Intuition is based on experience.” Barom talks in a similar sense: “I need to like the brand. When I meet the brand principals, it has to click – our vision and what they want to do.” Thomas, eager to set up his Cabinet in Asia, met Barom through a mutual friend. When he visited the Central Embassy in December 2013 – it must have been in the middle of its building process – he felt, “Something special was happening. The philosophy of the Siwilai concept store reflects mine – not just creating another classic shop but to be a face for different creations in the champions league of concept stores. It’s been made with an intention that’s meaningful – you feel it and it attracts you even if you didn’t know the store before.”

The opening was a three-day event in which we experienced the different facets of the concept as well as hotspots of the buzzing town. The pre-opening dinner took place in the Sukhumvit district at Bo.lan, a renowned Thai cuisine joint boasting stripped-back interior design featuring beautiful untreated wood, dashes of traditional Thai elements and of course delicious, delicate and complex dishes. Seated on rather large tables, we had the chance to get to know some of the designers who collaborated with CDC for the Siwilai store, the architects of the installation design as well as countless others involved. By the time we headed to the after-party at Sugar Ray You’ve Just Been Poisoned, run by the ones behind the Made by Legacy flea market  and the What If Café and serving up an ideal, cosy environment, the atmosphere was of familiarity and joy and we were eager to be shown the designs and objects exclusive to this edition, which we got the chance to the following day.

Unlike the sleek, white and organic-shaped Central Embassy, the installation for CDC, built by the multidisciplinary, French design agency Diplomates, comes in warm, dark woods and square shapes – – a structure based around a customised steel connector pod. Its multi-branch joint allows the Diplomates super-structure to grow organically throughout the space, interacting with the Central Embassy’s existing curvilinear layout. The strong contrast is what makes the two opposite architectural languages talk to, as if made for, each other. “The scenography is the best so far in the history of CDC and will stay here for a while. It’s a new concept in terms of ambition; original and unique,” boasts Thomas.

Barom in general is taken by the fact that the pieces exhibited have been made especially for this edition and feature elements and emblems of traditional Thai culture. “Thai womenswear reaches circa 20 established brands, e.g. Something Budoir , while in the menswear section only about five, amongst them Ken-chi-bi, who makes tailored suits and shirts; the only menswear brand I feel close to.” He explains why the Thai aspect of CDC is fascinating to him, for example a small, stitched elephant on the silk velvet smoking jacket by Parisian gentleman’s tailor Chavret or the legendary Thai dragon on the silk pop artwork by Thai silk company Jim Thompson, established in 1951 in Bangkok, and graffiti artist Olivier Burel, aka Ogreoner, of which Thomas observes: “From the outside it looks like there is a new collaboration of creative brands.”

This year, Le Cabinet exhibits more than 80 guests from over 20 countries and four world-class chefs. Here’s a selection of the best contributed creations:

The motorbike contribution by automotive customisation brand Half Caste Creations, crafting vintage motorcycles into modern works of art – sheer poetry in motion – is sexy and a bit extravagant. Outfitted with a crocodile leather seat upholstery, a 1930s replica taillight and an engine from Thailand’s most beloved bike model, the Yamaha SR400, it displays an impressive shape thanks to an oddly elegant exhaust system. Black suits it well.

Fashion and art can be found in the collaboration ‘Hide and Seek’ between Swiss/Thai designer Laend Phuengkit and Thai artist Oh Futon – a superstar in the local art scene. A wearable commentary on human emotions, a womenswear blouse and menswear shirt embellished by small illustrations, each depicting a scene of everyday life, some visually exposed, others hiding as the wearer’s thoughts might be, his shirts invite us to take a closer look and see the stories behind the person.

The cigar humidor box by Parisian cabinetry brand Kostia is a very elegant, one of a kind piece made from the most beautiful wood, opening through a clever and sophisticated slider operation. Founder Constantin Laan, himself obsessed with materials, is a man of manners and knows to enjoy his smoke away from the crowds as, in his own words, the smell can be rather unpleasant. As such, let’s hope the box will go to a gentleman.

“For us, Thailand symbolises a faraway place to discover. We wanted to create an outfit that is ready to go on an adventure and explore in the heat of the city” – Maison Kitsuné was not only exhibiting a khaki, pure cotton safari ensemble with their fox logo facing an elephant, but co-founder Masaya Kuroki also DJing at the opening night’s after-party, banging out brilliant tunes everyone just had to dance to, making it even harder to overcome the jetlag the next morning and go exploring the city.

During our stay in Bangkok at the Okura Hotel we were also shown the joyful Namsaah Bottling Trust restaurant, run run amongst others by the “Celebrity Chef” Chalermkittichai Kittichai, who decided to take a holiday instead of attending the military service and used the time to set up two restaurants in colonial buildings that look cute but somehow awkward in the middle of the skyscrapers surrounding them. Last but not least was a visit to the club Maggie Choo’s next to the Novotel on Silom Road – beware of the swings hanging from the ceilings inviting you to go wild if your drink intake is as normal for a night out in Bangkok. Good fun.

What will the future bring for Siwilai and CDC? “I’d like to expand Siwilai to New York, Hong Kong and Japan,” explains Barom, “I’m open but it must make sense emotionally and rationally. More than 80 guest contributors from over 20 countries take a lot of hard work, coordination and resources with everyone coming with their own view and cultural background, which should in the end all be aligned with the philosophy of the Central Embassy: merging art, culture, fashion and music.” Where the next Cabinet will take place, Thomas has not had time to think about as yet. But chit-chatting with him made clear Shanghai and Zurich are places on his mind. Wherever he will take it, curiously we shall be flocking in.

Masterclass with OGREone on November 28, 2014 at 2pm.
Chef Masterclass: Chef Bertrand Grébaut (Michelin Star) on November 30, 2014 at 2pm.
Party hosted by Jim Thompson and his collar partner Ogre on December 3rd, 2014 at 6.30pm.
Chef Masterclass: Chef Ana Ros on December 7, 2014 at 2pm.
Chef Masterclass: Chef Virginie Laval on December 14, 2014 at 2pm.
Party hosted by Vickteerut on December 17, 2014 at 6.30pm.

NoéMie Schwaller

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