Friday Future Lister: The Art of Balance: Jirawat Mahasarn and His Tradition-Preserving Through Modern Craft at Chaksarn Design

Join Jirawat “Tum” Mahasarn on his quest with Chaksarn to combine age-old traditions with contemporary design, creating a sustainable future for Northeast Thailand's artisans and their craft.

For this week's Friday Future List, we're featuring Jirawat “Tum” Mahasarn, the founder of Chaksarn Design. Raised amidst an area known for its rich tradition of silk and woven mat production, Northeast Thailand, Jirawat shares his journey of passion and creativity.

"As a child, my dreams were shaped by various factors. At that time, I believe I had no clear aspirations because I grew up in the countryside. My parents were farmers and they lived their entire lives in a small village, where opportunities were limited. In rural society, there is often a preference for familiar professions like government work, nursing, medicine, or teaching. I was raised with the belief that I should become a doctor and work in government service for a happy and comfortable life.


However, my perspective prevented me from seeing the multitude of career options beyond what was familiar to me. As a child, I followed the dreams of adults and aimed to become a dentist. But as I matured, I realised my aversion to hospitals, blood, and wounds, which made that path unsuitable for me.  Fortunately, I did not pursue that dream blindly and eventually discovered my true passion later in life— fashion."

North-eastern Thailand (Isaan) steeped in the heritage of cottage industries, faced the threat of being overshadowed by the surge of mass production. Witnessing the challenges local artisans faced, Jirawat founded Chaksarn with a vision to revitalise and share his cherished northeastern heritage with the world. His approach was innovative: melding traditional sedge weaving with contemporary design to craft fashion-forward products. This initiative aimed to preserve a cultural legacy and adapt it for appeal in today’s market.

"Starting from a transition period in life where I felt entrenched in office work, I began pondering my true passions — ones that could make a real impact on society and bring daily joy. During this time, I rediscovered the value of reed mats when I returned home to Maha Sarakham. Though common as household seating in the Northeast, I saw them differently.


I realised reed mats could be more than just a place to sit. Surprisingly, no one seemed to be exploring their potential beyond this. This realisation sparked my desire to connect local artisans with a wider market. And so, the idea for the Chaksarn brand was born — dedicated to transforming hand-woven reed mats into stylish bags."

Chaksarn, established in 2018, stands out for its combination of traditional Thai craftsmanship and modern aesthetics. The brand specialises in handbags that integrate hand-dyed, woven natural water sedge with genuine leather, offering both style and uniqueness.

From the beginning Chaksarn has been on a mission to support and uplift the local economy through fair trade practices, ensuring a sustainable and equitable working environment for disadvantaged artisans in rural areas. This approach helped in keeping the traditional art alive and providing the artisans with a stable income, significantly improving their standard of living.


"I believe that achieving a balance between innovation and tradition is crucial for sustainability. It's essential not to be biassed towards one side or the other but to integrate both in a supportive manner.


If we solely prioritise innovation and modernity, there's a risk of losing the charm of tradition, potentially impacting artisans' way of life. The cooperation may prove unsuccessful.


Conversely, if we overly cling to tradition without adapting to the times, our products may not meet market demands.


Therefore, sincerity in business is paramount — being genuine with customers and the community, avoiding exploitation. For me, achieving this balance ensures sustainability and success."

Raised in a community where silk production and sedge weaving were everyday activities, Tum saw firsthand the cultural richness and potential economic challenges of his region.

The concern that weaving might soon become a lost art, particularly among the younger generation, added urgency to his mission. 

Through Chaksarn, Tum sought to revolutionise perceptions of Thai fashion while gaining global recognition.

"I aspire to be both an individual and a brand that leads the charge in reshaping the attitudes of consumers, particularly among Thai people, towards fashion items crafted from Thai materials. My goal is to broaden the appreciation for and adoption of these products by showcasing modern, versatile designs that resonate with the contemporary era. These designs should be inclusive, suitable for all ages, and tailored to the weather conditions of Thailand.


While changing ingrained perspectives is challenging, my experience with creating Chaksarn reed mat bags over the past six years has shown me that it is possible.


Witnessing these bags find their way into the hands of young customers has been gratifying. Looking ahead, I envision dedicating myself even more to introducing Thai handicrafts into the fashion industry. By achieving this, we can improve society and help artisans' communities grow economically in a sustainable way.”

By aligning traditional craftsmanship with modern design and fair trade practices, Chaksarn is preserving a piece of Thai heritage and revitalising it, ensuring it thrives and continues to be a source of income and pride for the local communities in Northeast Thailand.