Feb 09 2012
As someone who grew up with a father who would dumpster dive for kitchen tiles, and a mother who would drag home tattered couches from the street curbs, I was taught early about the natural high of stumbling across a ‘find’. You know, the shopping euphoria that washes over you when you find the most beautiful garment at the bottom of the five-dollar bin, wrinkled and smelling like a grandma, but bursting with potential. It’s become an addiction.
Though shiny spankin’ newness is the preferred Bangkok ascetic (see: bedazzled hamburger bun iPhone cases at MBK, and cheap clothing in Siam, made for today and meant to destruct by tomorrow), vintage-chic has been a popular new look, especially in the Thai hipster crowd. But unfortunately, new is still godly, and clothing is mass-produced to only appear like it was made in a past era. This aging clothing effect often backfires to emphasise its cheapness, like a bad nose job.
For the brave ones looking for authentic vintage clothing, or those who would like to practise recycling even with their fashion, Union Mall in Lad Prao is the perfect find. Open every day and easy to get to from the Phahon Yothin MRT, Union is an air-con, convenient, and almost empty alternative to Chatuchak Market or Thonburi.
Union Mall, which is opposite Central Lad Prao, is smaller and less assuming than its giant neighbor, with cheaper street-stall style stores catering to a young Thai university crowd. Even those who often frequent Union might easily have missed the vintage section, which is hidden on the fifth floor of the shopping centre. While the second and third floors are lively and full of shoppers, the fourth floor is a boarded up, and the fifth is largely bypassed to get to the movie theatre on the sixth floor. On the fifth, each of the vintage stalls has slightly different hours, and many of the spaces remain permanently unoccupied, giving the whole floor an empty feeling.
Don’t let the abandoned warehouse ambiance fool you, though: I guarantee you will go home with more than one shopping bag filled with vintages goods, even with designer brand names that would go for 600 times the prices elsewhere. Skirts and dresses are around 100 to 200 baht, though the vendors are open to negotiating, especially if you buy more than one. If you’ve bought out the fifth floor, you can also ride the elevators down to the third floor, where there are even more vintage finds on “2nd hand street”, though these stalls seem to sell more of a hybrid of retro, high-quality clothing and cheap modern goods.
Wear an outfit that is easy to slip things over, as there are no dressing rooms and stripping down is not appropriate in Thailand (along with most other countries). Vendors will have mirrors and elasticised skirts, which closely resemble shower curtains, for you to use to cover up your bottom half while you change. When you are done? Complete a new look with synthetic hair extensions or nails on the second floor, or try Thailand’s spin on American steak at Jeffer on first floor.
Union Mall, 5th (and 3rd) floor
54 Lat Phrao Rd, Chom Phon
The mall is open daily from 11:00-21:00
Vintage stall hours: It varies depending on the mood of the vendor, though 12:00-16:00, especially on Saturday and Sunday, seems to be the optimal time to visit.
MRT: Phahon Yothin
BTS: A five-minute cab ride from Mo Chit station. Ask a taxi or motorbike driver to take you to ‘Union Mall’, and they should know where to take you. If that doesn’t work, try ‘Central Lad Prao’.
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