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Selling an eco-friendly future

PHUKET: Q&A with Claire Chiang, managing director of Banyan Tree Gallery in Laguna.

By Claire Connell

Thursday 19 April 2012, 12:46PM

Claire Chiang, managing director of Banyan Tree Gallery in Laguna.

Claire Chiang, managing director of Banyan Tree Gallery in Laguna.

When did the shop open, and why?

In 1989, I was approached to purchase two traditional Thai maun cushions by women of the Yasathon community in northeast Thailand.
As a means to support the local cottage industry, I decided to commission 500 cushions and other Thai handicrafts and textiles to furnish the interiors of our resorts in Laguna Phuket.

This led to the birth of Banyan Tree Gallery Phuket, our flagship store, in 1994. Banyan Tree Gallery is a quintessential highlight of the Banyan Tree experience and we seek to bring an element of the resort experience into each of our galleries worldwide.

What types of items are for sale, and where do you source them from?

Banyan Tree Gallery is a socially responsible tourism retailer committed to supporting indigenous artistry and environmental conservation.

We aim to reflect a sense of place and a touch of tradition by featuring merchandise that draws on traditional Asian handicraft techniques reflected in our selection of furnishings, objets d’art, apparel, eco-friendly products and Banyan Tree Spa-inspired collections. Our prices range from B15 to B160,000.

Elements Jewelry By Banyan Tree showcases fine jewellery inspired by ethics and luxury. These exquisite items include fine silver pieces, authentic gemstones and bespoke items inspired by traditional ethnic art forms, natural elements and materials. Our prices range from B1,000 to B299,000.

What are the most interesting and unique items you have for sale?

Year of the Dragon Collection: Inspired by the mythical creature that symbolises good fortune, the new selection of merchandise includes apparel, home and gadget accessories designed to signify prosperity in the coming year.  
Elephant Collection: Showcasing exquisite apparels, ceramic crafts, accessories and stationery. Elegant wood and ceramic crafts, eco-friendly stationery and books featuring the revered animal are also available.
Colours of Leaves Collection: Lifestyle collection features hand-woven hemp and linen fabric. These two materials were chosen because of their kindness to the environment, with minimal use of pesticide and long-term sustainability.

What are some of the problems your shop has faced, and how has it overcome them?

Many of our goods are supplied by local craftsmen, so when an item sells quickly we have many customers requesting it after it has
run out of stock.
Unlike modern manufacturing, local artisans require time to create the items by hand, so we’ve experienced minor issues with supply
not meeting demand.

To overcome this, we’ve made sure to track when an item is very popular and place an additional order with the artisans to make sure we can meet our customers’ needs.

What is your opinion of the Phuket shopping scene?

The shopping scene in Phuket is growing. There are many retail shops opening and more brand names coming in. Antique shops and unique home furnishings are becoming increasingly available as options for tourists.

Courier companies are offering competitive pricing so it’s more convenient to shop in Phuket and send goods home. Our customers who purchase home furnishings from our shops and wish to have them delivered home appreciate having such services available nearby.

Banyan Tree Gallery Phuket, 33 Moo 4 Srisoonthorn Road, Cherng Talay,
076-324-374; banyantreegal Opening hours: daily 8am-10pm.

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