With our beach towel in tow, we stopped into some of Phuket’s best beach and resort wear boutiques to find out what the sun-worshipping smart set are wearing this season.
Searching for the island’s most glamorous beach styles, we first stopped in at the Re Ká Ta Boutique and Café on Kata Beach. Attached to The Boathouse resort, which has long been synonymous with sophistication, the shop is brimming with top European brands including the finely-shaped and flattering Melissa Odabash swimwear collection.
Boathouse General Manager Marie-Laure Fleury, who also oversees both the Re Ká Ta shop and the Trisara Gallery boutique shop in Naithon Beach, said that many of the selections were inspired by guests staying at the resorts. She started stocking the shops with kaftans by Australian designer Camilla, for one, after asking a guest about her vibrant attire.
For those looking to wear something chic and silky with a bit of added glitz that can extend into the tropical night, Re Ká Ta’s Marie France Van Damme collection is a fine place to start. The fabrics are simply gorgeous, from simple white silk to eye-popping metallic bronze and gunmetal. Meanwhile, for something light, intricate and feminine by Regardez Moi.
For men, the overriding theme in Re Ká Ta is function, action and keeping cool. A rainbow of top-quality shirts in linen and cotton is complemented by fun-patterned board shorts by French brands 83 990 Tenue De Plage, its name derived from the zip code of St Tropez and Vilebrequin. With price tags of 5,000 baht up, these brands do not come cheap, but they’re certainly built to last. Marie said the Vilebrequin shorts will still look great after 15 years.
Vilebrequin board shorts are also found up at Surin Beach in the Catch Beach Club Gallery. Catch, as well as its sister shop Twinpalms Gallery at the Twinpalms resort, is focused on simple and classic styles for the tropics, said Gallery Supervisor Sawai “Ton” Chaiphithip.
Most of the items here are designed especially for Catch and Twinpalms, and the beach club’s and resort staff serve as models for the clothes since much of what they wear is also on sale at the shops – even the serving staff’s leather money belts. Catch pieces are mainly in cheerful blue and white while Twinpalms Gallery items have a more chic flavour with black and creamy white silks and linens.
Among the best-selling items are the white polo shirts for men and women. Fisherman’s trousers in white linen are also popular, said Khun Ton. Catch Beach Club further extends its reach into all things fun and beachy with Catch-branded surfboards, body boards, towels and beer coolers available for sale.
A brash and bright shop new on the scene in Phuket is 69 slam, a beach and underwear brand that had its start in Bali but has since spread to some 40 countries. Ben Gale, the “big boss man” for the outlet on Patong’s beach road, said 69 slam’s designs are aimed at active and younger beach-goers who like more edgy and rebellious looks. The brand was set to gain wider exposure in October with male and female contestants on the US reality show America’s Next Top Model wearing 69 slam designs on the catwalk during their visit to Bali.
69 slam fabric patterns feature such varied and unusual images as flamingos, watermelons, iPods, and – fittingly for Patong perhaps – pole dancing and pinup girls. Board shorts for both men and women are among the best-selling items, in particular those printed with oranges. Ben said he expects their swimsuits for kids to become popular in Phuket, as many expat families in Bali wouldn’t be seen at the beach without their 69 slam suits.
One innovation with an eco-friendly edge is 69 slam’s use of bamboo fibre, which will eventually replace cotton for all items using natural fabrics. Ben said it’s a durable and cool fabric perfect for the tropics, and it feels silkier to the touch than cotton.
Accessories are essential for adding polish and personality to any beach look, and one of the most striking items found at both Re Ká Ta and Catch Beach is the Meiow Hill Tribe Thailand vintage handbags, hand-crafted with authentic and antique materials from the six Golden Triangle hill tribes of Northern Thailand. These retail at about 12,000 baht, but back in Europe these one-of-a-kind bags are sold for 1,000 Euro or more, said Marie.
Other interesting pieces made in Thailand include the turquoise and shell necklaces at Catch Beach Club and the colourful “Boho-luxe” jewellery designs incorporating pearls, semi-precious gemstones and silk tassels by Thai-born designer Maneerat “Minnie” Moser under her Minmala brand at Re Ká Ta. Also at Re Ká Ta are beaded necklaces and bracelets by Danny Billaud, with a beautiful mix of subtle-toned natural stones and flashes of glitter plus desirable itmes from Zen sisters, Tigers and Dragons, etc...
Hats, naturally, are the best way to both stay cool and look cool at the beach, and there are few better ways to top off a tropical style than with the classic Panama hat, which may be found at both Re Ká Ta and Catch Beach Club. Re Ká Ta’s Helen Kaminski hat collection, meanwhile, offers some lovely well-crafted styles that will give any outfit an instant dose of elegance.
Catch Beach Club Gallery www.catchbeachclub.com
Twinpalms Gallery www.twinpalms-phuket.com
Re Ká Ta Boutique and Café www.rekataphuket.com
Trisara Gallery www.trisara.com
69 Slam Phuket www.facebook.com/69slamthai