1906 A Legend Is Born

1906

A Legend Is Born

James Harrison Wilson Thompson was born in Greenville, Delaware - United States, a prosperous community not far from Wilmington. He was the youngest of five childern by fourteen years. The family was comfortably off, prominent in Delaware society, and had roots that went deep into the history of that region and outside as well.

1931 The Creative Seed Was Sewn

1931

The Creative Seed Was Sewn

From 1931-1940, he was a practising achitect working in New York City, working for the firm of Holden McLaughin Associates.

1945 New Friend in Town

1945

New Friend in Town

Spending most of the war working with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in North Africa and Europe, Jim Thompson was transferred to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka in 1945), where preparations were underway to invade Thailand, which technically at least was at war with the Allies. 

 

Japan's sudden surrender ended the need for invasion, and because the United States had refused to recognize Thailand's declaration of war in 1942, Thompson and his party, the first to arrive in Bangkok - came not as conquerors but as liberating friends.

 

In August of the same year, a few days after the end of World War II, the man whose name was to become synonymous with Thai silk stepped off a military plane at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport.

1945 Introduction to Thai silks

1945

Introduction to Thai silks

The traditional silk then being produced in small quantities mostly for personal use, was not Jim Thompson's first career choice, though he had already been attracted to pieces he came across and had sent some home to friends he felt would appreciate their homespun texture and often surprising color combinations. Instead he became a part of a venture to restore the venerable Oriental Hotel, which at the time was serving as billets for military personnel.

1945 Life in the Orient

1945

Life in the Orient

For an architect with a taste for history, it was a logical choice. Built in 1887, The Oriental was one of Asia's legendary hotels, an elegant structure overlooking the great Chao Praya River flowing through the capital and which, in pre-war days had been to Bangkok what Raffles was to Singapore and The Peninsula to Hong Kong: a meeting place for almost everyone who traveled in the area and a social center for the local foreign community. Charlie Chaplin stayed there, and so had Noel Coward, Sommerset Maugham and assorted members of European royalty.

1947 Making a Mark

1947

Making a Mark

Thompson returned once again to Thailand after his discharge from the OSS to settle in the country permanently with the plans to restore The Oriental Hotel.

 

Even though these plans to do this never came to fruition, The Oriental remains one of the world's top hotels but without Thompson's involvement. A disagreement with his partners led to his withdrawal and while he continued to live there for serveral years, he did not become involved again until the mid-1960's when he was asked to design the luxurious suites in the old Author's Wing - one of which remains under his name to this day.

1947 Thai Silk Renaissance

1947

Thai Silk Renaissance

As an alternative, he began to consider the commercial possibilities of Thai silk, an idea he persued with determination. Thompson took a significant step when he discovered an enclave of Thai Muslim weavers who lived in a small canal-side community called Bangkrua in the heart of Bangkok.

1947 New York Calling

1947

New York Calling

With the collection of hand-woven silks he edited and gathered together, Thompson traveled to New York with a plan to make an impression on the city's sophisticated world of taste makers.

 

A notable event took place in the offices of Vogue magazine, and the results were encouraging. Not only was Edna Wollman Chase, the magazine influential editor enormously impressed with the bedazzling colors of the unknown fabrics (according to his often-repeated account, she dramatically summonded all the staff members to come and view the discovery), she also took more practical steps, showing it to various fashion designers and encouraging them to use it.

1950 A Brand Is Born

1950

A Brand Is Born

Jim Thompson opened his first shop on lower Suriwongse road

1951 The Thai Silk Company Limited

1951

The Thai Silk Company Limited

Following his successful trip to New York, Jim Thompson continued to work with this local weavers to produce some of the most exquisite fabrics the world has ever seen. In 1951 The Thai Silk Company Limited was officially registered as a company.

1951 Fit For A king

1951

Fit For A king

The Thai silk business really kicked off for Thompson when he was asked to weave silks for the Broadway production of The King and I. Irene Sharaff, the costume designer, had already used some of his fabrics in an earlier musical, Mike Todd's Peepshow, which featured a song written by Thailand's beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

 

The King and I, however, offered a much more dazzling showcase. For this, Thompson produced a wide range of silks and old photograhs of both Thai and European dress dating from the period. The great success of the musical as well as that of the later film, led to floods of orders not just to The Thai Silk Company but to others in the same industry. Through his efforts, charms and singular flair for salesmanship, he won over masses of customers thus Thai silk became internationally known. 

1959 Fit for a Queen

1959

Fit for a Queen

Thailand's beautiful Queen Sirikit became one of Jim Thompson's early and royal clientele, and the dresses Pierre Balmain designed in 1959 for their majesties' world tour brought the fabric new fame.

1959 Fit For a Queen

1959

Fit For a Queen

Perhaps Jim Thompson's most celebrated and influential customer was the beautiful Queen Sirikit of Thailand, whose Pierre Balmain wardrobe for the visit she and The King made to America in the early sixties included many special Thompson silks. Her majesty remained a steady customer of Thompson's company, and he produced a number of costly silks brocaded in gold for her exclusive use; Balmain too, continued to use Thai silk extensively in his Paris creations.

 

1959 The Dream House

1959

The Dream House

Silk was not the only achievement for which Jim Thompson was well known. Countless visitors to Bangkok praise the beautiful Thai style teak house where he lived and displayed his remarkable collection of Asian art, his House on the Klong.

 

During his first decade in Thailand, Thompson lived in a variety of accommodations. He also acquired an increasingly large collection of art, mostly Thai but also Khmer, Burmese and Chinese. By the late 1950's his finds was so extensive that he decided it was time to build a place that would properly house this splendid antique collection.

 

 

1960 Thailand's Most Famous Export

1960

Thailand's Most Famous Export

By  the 1960's, silk had become Thailand's most famous export product, not only in brilliant solid colors but also in a wide range of prints (another area pioneered by Thompson) and a variety of weaves for home furnishing as well as fashion. Designers of the film Ben Hur chose Jim Thompson silks for many of the principal costumes, and an English decorator had specified our products in the restoration of the Canaletto Room of Windsor Castle. The Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, an old friend of Jim Thompson, had special colors woven for her various properties around the world. Soon Jim Thompson silks had found their way into other exclusive locations around the world, like the London Savoy Hotel in London.

1960 The House on the Klong

1960

The House on the Klong

He chose a site across the canal from the community of his Bangkrua weavers. The residence he eventually built was composed of all or parts of six separate buildings from a variety of locations. The one that was turned into his large drawing room came from across the canal and others were found in Thailand's ancient capital city, Ayutthaya. Construction took 7 months and was finally completed at the beginning of 1959. A traditional Thai religious ceremony was held on April 3, 1959.

1967 The Unsolved Mystery

1967

The Unsolved Mystery

On Easter Sunday afternoon in 1967, while on holiday in the Cameron Highlands - Malaysia, Jim Thompson disappeared mysteriously.

1967 9 Surawongse Road

1967

9 Surawongse Road

Jim Thompson relocated his business to No.9 Surawongse Road in 1967, just two weeks before his disappearance.

 

To date, the store remains Jim Thompson's (The Thai Silk Company Limited) flagship store and still offers a dazzling array of Thai silk. Housed in an elegant building in the architectural style of 17th century Ayutthaya with original wood panelling, it is truly one of the gems of Bangkok.

1980 Jim Thompson Factory

1980

Jim Thompson Factory

In the 1980's The Thai Silk Company Limited moved its silk production into the modern world by relocating this side of production to a peaceful village not far from the northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) called Pak Thong Chai. It was here, on many of his travels through the region in the late 1940's, that Jim Thompson discovered some of his earliest weavers, producing beautiful silks on simple looms in the open spaces under their raised wooden houses.

 

In 1982, Jim Thompson - The Thai Silk Company Ltd's first production on a commercial scale took place on site.

 

Today, a new visitor to Jim Thompson’s upcountry production facilities is not unlikely to be astonished. The campus-like compound has some 50 workshop buildings situated on 37 hectares, or 93 acres, of verdantly gardened grounds. In addition, our two large farms total 445 hectares, or 1,100 acres. Here the magic of of production takes place. Everything from silk cocoon selection, degumming and coloring silk yarns, reeling and weaving production is done one site.

2006 Introduction of No.9 Thompson

2006

Introduction of No.9 Thompson

ODYSSEY was the first collection from No.9 Thompson, the 'diffusion line' of Jim Thompson Fabrics.

 

Designed by Richard Smith, No.9 Thompson introduces collections of prints and wovens drawn from a wide variety of sources and inspirations. The unifying theme is one of relaxed, casual elegance, with an emphasis on accessibility.

 

No.9 collections take their inspiration from the story of Jim Thompson’s life-changing journey between New York and Bangkok where he arrived in 1945. In No.9 Thompson we drawn together all the facets of Jim Thompson’s life which brought him so much inspiration during these years – his love of music, gardens and architecture; his fascination with color and texture; his passion for silk. The result is a combination which could have been tailor made for today’s market – cotton mixes with a lustrous, silky quality; silks mixed with cotton to broaden their usability; and prints in a broad color palette ranging from neutrals and soft pastels to vibrant reds, rich plums and chocolates.

2007 Jim Thompson Europe

2007

Jim Thompson Europe

In January 2007, Jim Thompson Europe GmbH was incorporated. Our Munich Showroom occupies a bright and lovely space on Müllerstrasse in an up and coming art district.

2011 Jim Thompson America

2011

Jim Thompson America

Jim Thompson America was incorporated in 2011 and now distributes through more than 20 showrooms across North America and Canada. Our flagship North American showroom opened in ADAC Atlanta in December 2013.

2013 Paris Showroom Opened

2013

Paris Showroom Opened

The chic and fashionable neighborhood of St.Germain des Prés came to a halt on October 3, 2013 as Jim Thompson celebrated the opening of its Paris showroom. The charming street of Rue de Furstenberg took on a special atmosphere of the exotic East as Jim Thompson celebrated its new home in Paris.

 

Exclusively distributed by Pierre Frey in France, Jim Thompson the legendary Thai silk company has spread its wings and travelled from exotic Asia to showcase its designer collections of luxurious silks and other exquisite fabrics and to make its mark on this much sought-after address. The new showroom promises to offer designers and decorators an inviting venue to discover the company’s fabulous fabrics.