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I read Homer’s epic poems in my late teens but, at that time, I failed to understand the message he so subtly conveyed in ‘The Odyssey’ – a story of daredevils and their jaw dropping adventures.
Throughout my life I have travelled extensively – or quested, as some might say – but my own odyssey only kicked in when I mustered up enough courage some three years ago to embark upon a six-month sabbatical, which turned into a life-altering journey. Based in London, I traded my daily hunting ground, the international hedge-fund market, without much hesitation, given the lacklustre setting post 2009, for a time-out in Ubud – Balinese paradise for the wicked soul seeker in pursuit of ‘spirituality’. For quite some time, ‘more’ in my life had felt like so much ‘less’, so the moment had clearly come to make a fundamental change: I self-prescribed a whole lot of rest and relaxation in the form of daily yoga and meditation practices, but most fortuitously, I made allowances for creativity and inspiration to find me.
There is a great difference between being still and doing nothing
I thrived in freedom. Accidental social excursions to nearby villages renowned for botanical dyeing reignited my long-lost teenage passion for high-end natural textiles. My preferred materials – silk & cotton – pointed me to the sophisticated artisanal crafts(wo)men of ancient Siam, which – a plane ride later – I promptly explored.
A new business idea was born.
Today, nearly two years after my arrival in Thailand I continue to champion the village artisans themselves and, to a greater extent, the rural communities in which they live. These women stole my heart. I cannot but be amazed by the hidden weaving and dyeing talents in the depths of Isaan, tucked away neatly into spectacular indigo (crop) landscapes where real quality of life still exists. Here, family still matters, and community life is sacred.
APOCCAS, which means ‘Ancient Power on Cashmere, Cotton And Silk’, has since become a long-term commitment to ethically produced hand-woven textiles. I choose the village weaving communities carefully with their individual craftsmanship in mind; then I adjust and mould my designs to fit their skillset accordingly – be that to consider their expertise for scarves or throws or to suit the weavers’ yarn or botanical dye preferences.
Truth be told, my journey wasn’t always easy. Getting to the source – the master weavers of Isaan and the North of Thailand – is a mission in itself. I befriended and, even more hurriedly, unfriended middlemen – mostly of the male kind, spent restless hours on night busses – not the VIP type – to travel to far away destinations, humbly (albeit wincing on the inside) ate fried crickets to honour a village matron’s hospitality, slept uncomfortably on floor mats with too few blankets in freezing temperatures right above a pig pen and a brood of rambunctious roosters, and learned a new language that involved wild hand gesticulations but, most importantly, the proper use of a smile.
VORTEX, our maiden collection, which ironically means ‘whirlwind’, is proof that perseverance coupled with a huge pinch of patience and a bit of luck eventually does pay off.
Hence my homage to Homer, poet and sage par excellence, who couldn’t have given us a greater lyrical gift with ‘The Odyssey’, one I now appreciate for its tales of great (wo)men, bravery, loyalty, perseverance, hospitality, and above all: spiritual growth.
Alexandra Du Sold
APOCCAS designs and makes luxurious hand-woven scarves, shawls and throws in rural village communities in Thailand. All of our creations are hand loomed ethically using locally farmed silk and hand-spun cotton yarns, and more recently, bamboo threads – all dyed by hand in hot or tempered water baths with botanical extracts; and organic or Supima cotton yarn – mercerised, eco-dyed and EU Flower certified.
We use Mulberry silk and Eri silk.
The former is usually reeled into silk yarn from natural silk cocoons after they are softened in boiling water. The latter silk is spun, not reeled; the silk cocoon can be cut open prior to placing the them into boiling water baths so that the moth, nestled inside the cocoon, can escape. Silk, which is processed this way, is classified as ‘sustainable’ or vegan-friendly; it is also called Peace silk.
VORTEX is our maiden collection comprising the following ten styles of scarves and three styles of throws.
It is completed by AGNI, our collection of semi-precious stone bracelets, created in support of our philosophy.
- ZIG & ZAG
- Snowflake Obsidian
- Tourmaline Quartz
- Flesh Moonstone
- Yellow Agate
- Green Garnet
- Rose Quartz
- Lapis Lazuli
- Rainbow Moonstone
- Clear Quartz
At APOCCAS we have taken our philosophy beyond the consideration for the environment and our weavers. We want to bring joy to our wearers ... our fans ... our customers. Our pieces exist to create win-win situations from weaver to wearer and beyond.
The human body naturally uses the colour spectrum in conjunction with the law of attraction. It does this by assessing intuitively what colours to wear so we can attract people or situations of a certain vibration that corresponds to the desire we are seeking to have fulfilled.
APOCCAS has created its designs with the entire botanical colour spectrum in mind. Each scarf or throw is made in one predominant colour scheme to satisfy our customers’ colour choices.
The belief in the energetic properties and healing power of crystals is well documented since the dawn of time. Semi-precious and precious stones adorned the mummies of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt – each stone having an earmarked destination for placement on the corpse. For example, Amethyst and Lapis Lazuli crystal – as a result of their inherent clairvoyant properties – would specifically be used as ornaments in the facial area, usually between the eyes and the throat respectively.
APOCCAS has embraced those ancient wisdoms and epitomised them on its pieces accordingly. Each textile has a set of small crystals inconspicuously interwoven into the root of the fringe or twisted tassels. One stone each is sewn into the ‘eye of APOCCAS’ and used to dot the ‘i’ of each embroidery – more to be revealed in the next section ... Each design’s crystal appliqués are colour coordinated with the textile in order to amplify the meaning of its colour so that it may enhance the mood or intention of the wearer.
Studying the power of the word [and thought] has fascinated scientists and spiritual thinkers alike for decades. It is understood to mean that each of our thoughts corresponds to vibrational frequency. Therefore, if we alter our thoughts it must be possible to alter the energy that we pulsate out into the ethers. As a result we should ‘attract’ events or people who are ‘on the same wavelength’.
It is suggested that our thoughts and emotions have great power. Masaru Emoto (Japanese Author & Entrepreneur, b. 1943) claims that the human consciousness (intent) has an effect on the molecular structure of (frozen) water. His synopsis is that human thought and emotion – happy or sad – are directly correlated with the loveliness (or lack thereof) of water crystal formations if permeated. Since 69% of the human body is water Emoto believes that the ‘intentions’ transitioning to and from our social realm are equally powerful, possibly influencing our health and wellbeing.
The Master Key System, by Charles Francis Haanel (American New Thought Author & Businessman, 1866-1949) is another scientific study along the law of attraction:
“The predominant thought or mental attitude is the magnet, and the law is that like attracts like, consequently, the mental attitude will invariably attract such conditions as correspond to its nature.”
A natural cycle of feel-goodism.
The very reason we integrate the ancient wisdoms of colour, stone and mantra into our designs
This theory teaches true mind power, creative power, and spiritual force: like thinking and thought. Thoughts of courage, inspiration and harmony replace thoughts of failure, despair and discord. Old things pass away. Life begins to have new meaning. The individual is reconstructed and is filled with joy, confidence and hope that are radiated to his/her environment and the attraction will commence renewed.
With this in mind, APOCCAS has embroidered a verbal affirmation on each of its creations – not random – but in line with both principal colour meaning and its synchronised crystals – concealed but effective – and all to enhance the wellbeing of the wearer.
APOCCAS is centred on the rich crafts-making traditions of ancient Siam. It is here, in the rural homelands of Thailand’s master weavers, where we currently collaborate with eleven native communities in the North and Isaan.
The art of hand weaving in Southeast Asia dates back to prehistoric times, and has been a task mainly carried out by women as part of their family duty in between harvests. Thai fabrics have a plethora of designs, usually distinguished by region. Northerners are experts in both cotton and silk weaves with raised patterns or ‘yok dok’ (brocade) whereas the north-easterners (the Isaan or Lao minority groups) prefer producing mudme fabrics using yarn tie-dye techniques on cotton.
Today, traditional weaving itself remains largely the same: textiles are woven on hand looms setting up a ‘battalion’ of yarns or threads [= warp] that is interlaced at right angles [= weft]. But Thailand’s artisanal weaving culture is at risk of becoming extinct. Increased demand for power looms is one reason but younger generations flocking to the big cities in the hope for a quick ascent from rags to riches further impedes the continuation of this ancient trade.
There is a ray of light, however. Customer demand for hand woven luxury textiles in First World countries is on the rise, making us at APOCCAS more determined than ever to promote our crafts(wo)men and their near-forgotten heritage. All in the name of empowerment – as we don’t believe charity on its own is enough.
We believe in the proliferation of the artisanal culture – the art of weaving which has been a tradition in Isaan and the North of Thailand for centuries. We believe preserving
autonomy and independence is worth facilitating. It will increase their livelihood. If I asked any of our master artisans what they would take pride in the most it would likely be the continuation of their weaving legacy. Passing down those very traditions and skills of master weaving, from this generation to the next, is a natural (unemployment) insurance policy worth championing. APOCCAS is committed to investing a significant portion of its profits into the very weaving communities that are helping to put us on the map.
All of our products come with beautiful Saa paper tags which explain in more detail the origins and composition of the unique products you are about to enjoy; including a homage to our matron weavers whom we have nicknamed after powerful animal spirits, the very soul of which they represent:~~~~~
Elephants – Buddhist nuns in the North supporting Hill Tribes children
Dragon – a character with fiery assets and a heart of gold
Doe – timid at first sight, yet extraordinary in execution of uniqueness
Mare – gentle, deliberating powerful messages
Eagle – a loving daughter whose eye escapes nothing
Tigress – an experienced leader with a fierce heart
Gazelle – a buzzing spirit of passion, efficiency & precision
Lioness – a worthy pope for her devout flock
Mariposa – a saint who makes hard labour seem like child’s play
Manatee – a large group of small ladies working tirelessly taking turns
Queen-bee – a loner ‘persevering’ for many a week for one of a kind ‘labour of love’
The demand for hand-made, Fair Trade and sustainable garments – particularly of the luxury kind – is increasing. Pockets of skilled artisans are keeping this ancient craft alive in places like the North and Northeast (Isaan) of Thailand, providing a vital financial lifeline to their remote and often undeveloped communities. Mahatma Ghandi once put it very aptly, “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness”, so with the spirit of master weaving in mind, APOCCAS, our idea of a lifestyle brand and living concept with feel-goodism at heart, was created.
We champion our village weavers, traditionally all women, by paying them fair wages or above. We believe in feminine energy in the management of the world, starting at the grassroots level. If a woman is empowered, then her children and her family will be better off. If families prosper then the village prospers and eventually the whole country will thrive. To help proliferate an otherwise dyeing ancient craft is key to gaining momentum with our plan.
Our mission today is simple yet powerful: to unite the warrior hearts of our weavers with the passion of our wearers, in the knowledge that the purity of our luxurious and powerful fabric treasures will lead the way. We believe that following strict principles of sustainability and social responsibility, including fair trade and carbon-offset values, is what we owe to our environment and its people. A significant percentage of the company's profits is earmarked to be einvested in select rural community projects to help foster traditional craftsmanship, especially for the master weavers' daughters. It's our way to sow the seeds for their empowerment, for their independence, their livelihood."
~luxury and social awareness in harmony with nature
Our love for sustainability and social awareness goes beyond our core product. It finds integration in our product information labels and tags as well as the various layers of wrapping. Our product tags and packaging are made from 100% Saa paper that is derived from Mulberry trees – fast growing and fully regenerating.
Our product labels are made from 100% organic cotton yarn, mercerized and EU Flower certified. Our village artisans weave it into cloth that is made into beautiful care and composition labels; the product information is embroidered with raw Supima yarn, botanical-dyed in the villages.
The accompanying product tags are made from Saa paper; the printed information is silk-screened. They provide valuable insights into the village and its botanical dye preferences, and not least into the therapeutic benefits – rooted in our philosophy – of our colour-crystal-mantra combinations on each and every piece of textile we make.
For our product (gift) wrapping, sheets of Saa paper are folded into Origami envelopes, finished with a Saa paper ribbon and sealed with twisted organic (certified) cotton thread strings, made by our villagers, with 8 mm Clear Quartz crystal stoppers. No Sellotape or metal pins are used and we prefer 100% recycled envelopes to post our packaged goods in.
One final word about the Saa paper industry:
Thailand is world famous for its high quality silk production using mainly domestically farmed Mulberry silk. Mulberry silk worms are not only fickle labourers, they are also picky eaters and consume solely fresh Mulberry tree leaves.
Mulberry wood – somewhat a by-product of the silk industry – fuels a whole other employment segment in northern Thailand where it originates, namely the Saa paper industry. It employs nearly 30,000. Thais who would otherwise struggle to feed their families.