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The Far East

Posted by Anthony Wallis on

As we travel to the Far East, keep up to date through the eyes of one half of S&B 
Day 1: 
Been thinking how to do this blog. Gloss it up like a magazine or more of a reality take, probably mix it up a bit. 
So off to the Far East on business. 
The hardest part is leaving the family but there are people who leave their families for months at a time, so it's just something you have to deal with. 
An early start, 4am to be exact. Tootle down to Birmingham for the early morning flight to Dubai. 7 hours. 
 
A few days in Dubai would not go amiss, lounging on Jumeirah beach in the day and the hotel bars at night. But that's for another time, when we have a bit more money. 
(Well a lot more money, but you get the idea). 
 
A 3 hour wait in Dubai till the connecting flight. If you have been to Dubai Airport, you'll know the size of this place and it drips with money. It's a place in itself. 
Every race, creed and colour all going about their travels. 
Will probably do an update in Dubai but will see on the connection. 

Next up is the 6 hour flight to Bangkok or Krung Thep, which is what the locals call it. It's full name actually is: 
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. 
Translated, it means 
City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra's behest. 
We will flick it back to Bangkok. 
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital is a large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Nearby is Wat Pho Temple with an enormous reclining Buddha and on the opposite shore, Wat Arun Temple with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire. 
That's your history lesson for today. 
 
 
Printing, weaving and manufacturing for us. No beaches or culture. Maybe a bit of culture on Sunday but no time for the beach. 
 
 
Thailand first, then a quick trip into Indonesia and back to Thailand. 
 
 
So keep your eyes peeled for an insight into our world. We will show you different aspects of our textile world. 

Day 2 
 
23 hours from door to door, Home to hotel. No sleep on the plane or snakes, but that happens sometimes. 
It's sometimes great to watch the sun rise in the East through the plane window. 
 
So not only are you jet lagged and landing in a hot country, the traffic is also horrendous. Don't let this put you off, traffic all across Asia is bad.  
A million new cars landed on the roads of Thailand last year. 
 
Hotel of choice is cheap. Don't need nothing flash, as mostly at the factories. Just somewhere to lay your weary head.  
Think £30 a night, but there is a balcony which is a bonus in this Air conditioned obsessed country. 
Oh, no Ironing board though so it's a case of sending them off for 30p each to be pressed and hung. 
Forgot the travel plug but it's only £3 for a set with more cables than a telephone exchange. 
 
So it's mid afternoon and the day has been spent between emails and pockets of sleep. 
First meeting tonight with a factory owner so I better get at least one shirt pressed for then. If only I knew of a high Menswear brand. 
 
Factory visits start at 8am tomorrow. 

A relaxing night on Day 2 of the Far East visit. 
Met with one of the Textile kings of Thailand and chewed over world issues. 
It had to be western food last night. Yes, Thai food is stunning, but you have to transition over from the western diet. Saying that, Thai food is a great weight loss vehicle, as it mainly consists of rice and fresh fish. 
Had a few beers in a local bar to help with sleep. 
 
Day 3 
 
Up at 6am bright & breezy. It all sounds great but lurking somewhere round the corner is Jet Lag. It can hit whenever it feels like it. 
If you are on holiday, you don't notice it as much, as you snooze on your sunbed drinking pina colada. 
Not so great midday at work. 
Off to the factory shortly. 
 
Still waiting for the jet lag to kick in but all is well at the moment. Lots of water always helps. 
 
A day of working with fabric and building the collection. We have already designed all the prints, so it's now a case of building woven fabrics into the collection. 
It all has to sit together and work as a balanced collection. 
Working the crazy, to fit with the basics is no mean feat. Coffee keeps the mind focused. Lots of it. 
Sit in the room away from everyone. 
 
Had a meeting with production regarding adding in the 14.5" collar and 19.5" collar, samples are now underway. 
Our shirts are made in the specialist area of the factory, as we require more attention to detail than the main factory floor. 
Boring fact. It takes a machinist one day to make 3 of our shirts. 
On the main production floor, it's about 5.5 shirts per day. 

Lunch consists of Shrimp fried rice and would you believe it, Pork Scratchings. Really thought this was a British thing, but it's not. 
There won't be any close ups of what we are working on. We would hate to spoil the surprise. 
It's Friday, will be here till 7, then off for a meal with the factory owner. 

Day 4 
 
It's Saturday. 
Oh yes we work in Thailand on a Saturday. 
Today has been about finalising the Shirt collection for Spring Summer. 
Capacity has been booked and all is completed. Trims etc. It doesn't just happen by itself. 
Sort the fabrics, sort the prints, put it all together. Change this, change that. 
Lay it all out. Walk away for 10 minutes and then come back. 
Change this, change that. Could do that all day long, but it has to stop. 
 
Next stop will be Monday at the Printing plant. Hopefully they have capacity to meet the requirements of the critical path. Critical path. Sounds so professional, which is not easy for us creative types. 
 
And either I am just worn out, or the dreaded Jet Lag has hit. 
 
Sunday. What to do. Maybe a tourist for the day. 
 
P.S - Thailand is not a poor country. Bank reserves of 183 Billion USD. I think more than the Great Britain. 

Bangkok Saturday night is no different to any other night here as this City knows how to entertain, Every night. 
From bars to live music, nightclubs etc, the city is alive 24/7. Every music is available to listen to from Northern Soul to 90's dance onwards. Thai people love music, as it is a natural escape from daily life. 
 
Day 5 
 
The exception to the rule is Sunday's, It's the only day that workers have off here. A 6 day working week here is standard. 
Sunday mornings it can be a ghost town as it seems everyone is having a lie in. Come lunchtime it picks back up to normal speed. 
 
Early morning has been spent emailing the British newspapers to see if we can get a piece in one of the papers. 
Then a Sunday morning stroll out round the quiet streets. Streets are being cleaned and the early bird catches the worm. 
Down to the latest shopping mall Emquartier, for a browse and lunch with a factory owner. Beautiful place, ridiculous prices. 
 
It became apparent that there was a live Sunday afternoon acoustic set on at a bar, so music and dinner. Again, great live music. 
Back at the hotel and an early night ready for an early start for the print mill. It's about an hour out of town, but on Mondays, it can be four. 

Day 6  
 
Early start to try and beat the traffic. An hours journey only took 2 hours which is not too bad for Bangkok. 
Out of town,through the Paddy fields and past the Temples of old Bangkok. Great to see the old way of life continuing on so close to the hustle and bustle of westernised Bangkok. 
 
Met with the factory owner and sales manager to go through the print requirements. 
We use the best 50's compact yarns for our shirts, which is why ours are a superior quality to the rest of the high street. Well that is what our customers constantly tell us. 
Cheap is cheap for a reason. 
 
A 3 hour drag back in to Bangkok due to the heavens opening up. Seems to slow up as if they are scared to drive in the rain. 
 
Back to base, meal at a nearby restaurant and back to more emails. 
 
Indonesia tomorrow to check on another print mill and qualities on offer. 
 
We just don't stop. 

Day 7  
 
Good Morning. 8am taxi to try and beat the traffic to Don Muang Airport, Bangkok's original airport. 
A 30 minute journey turned to one and a half hours, but that's how it is in Asia. Busy busy. When is any journey 30 minutes out here. 
11:25 flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.  
Small seats, budget airline, cheap price. You definitely get what you pay for. 

Landed in Jakarta and pay the Visa fee of $35. Immigration questioned me as to why I am only staying for one night. Still makes me nervous, even though I'm doing nothing wrong. I would love to stay longer but this is purely business. 
 
Head out of the airport with that sort of meerkat expression, trying to extend my neck above the chaos in front whilst scanning for the driver with my name card. Can't see one saying S&B for the life of me. 
A couple of phone calls later and the smiling driver arrives. Wrong gate. 
 
If you have landed at T2 in Jakarta and heading to Tangerang, you also will of had to circumnavigate the airport by car on what I can only describe as a free for all. I would liken to a scene from GTA Far East edition, It's every man for himself just Like Bangkok 15 years ago or more. 
 
Arrived at the hotel around 4:30pm, Novotel Tangerang. An oasis of calm, which is the complete opposite to the Taxi "experience". 
Check the emails with a few cups of tea, I wonder if they have any Jammy Dodgers to dip.....there's a whole other argument right there. 
 
Picked up at 6:45pm by one of the Factory managers and taking his expert advice to go to the local shopping mall to try a Chinese there. 
I prefer this over going to some fake westernised restaurant. Prefer to embrace the local. 
 
Great dinner and conversation. 
 
The storm last night was nothing like anything I have heard before on trips to the East. The whole hotel was shaking with thunder and being lit up by the huge lightning bolts. 
 
One day lost to travelling, ready to see the Print Mill tomorrow. Big S&B opportunities 
 
P.S - don't be scared of the world. The media does this to us. 

Day 8 
 
Wake up to rain which has been rattling against the window all night. Really did feel like One of One Hundred this morning in this country of 252 million people. 
 
An early breakfast before being picked up by the driver, then we battled the crazy traffic for an hour or 3miles whichever you prefer to arrive at the print factory. 
 
Arriving at the print mill reminded me more of an industrial estate, but it's one giant company with 3000 workers. Like a textile merchants wet dream. A $400 million turnover business, so not too shabby. 
Everybody busily working away but with smiles. Not sure, it may just be an Asian thing but smiling comes so naturally to these people. 
Wasn't allowed to take photos of the print machines, as it's top secret but I can tell you that they're beautiful machines to print our Sauce & Brown fabrics on. All the secrecy made me feel a little like James Bond, just less suave. 
 
Boring fact - they can digitally print 300'000 metres per month. 
Think Sauce & Brown needs a bit more growth to make a dent in this. 
Great meeting with various members of the business and they loved our authentic little Menswear business. 

Lunch. then another rat run for an hour back to the airport. 
 
Now Indonesia is a developing country and there are still poor people here, which struck home while in a traffic jam. A little girl of maybe 5 was walking through the traffic barefoot and sidled up to the car next to us on the road. She seemed oblivious to the motorbikes whizzing inches by her through the jam and proceeded to draw pictures on the dirty car next to us. Heart wrenching. She smiled and continued on her journey through the stationary cars. 
 
Get to the airport and in true British style I obliged to have my photo taken with various Indonesians, who seemed fascinated by my height. Not that tall really at 6 foot 2 but some of these people are tiny. 
Through the airport searching for a moments tranquility to concentrate on emails. 
Flight was on time and arrived back in Bangkok at 9pm. Absolutely shattered and I can hear the sweet song of my bed calling me. 
 
I was quite sceptical about travelling to Jakarta due to terrorism etc, but all my fears were dissipated by the warm hospitality of the people I met in this Muslim country. 

Day 9 
 
First things first, good morning. A nice china cup of tea in hand ready to tackle the email backlog and catch up with any missed business. The trip to Jakarta was way too quick and fried the brain a little. 
However, no rest beacause it's time to jump on a Skytrain and Bus for the next visit to another fabric company. 
The Skytrain is the most efficient way to the outskirts of the city. From there it's the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) which has its own lanes, so once again it's a fast and efficient way to travel. Much better than London Town and the trip only costs a pound. One whole pound. 
Still the standard Bangkok hours trip each way, like any journey in this city. 
 

This next company always look after me. The main purpose was to look at denim fabrics, we always have new ideas up our sleeves. Today's sleeves belong to our very own Midnight Floral shirt, which seemed very popular with the staff. 
 
If you like fabric you could stay here all day, they have every fabric imaginable but S&B only look at the top end bases. 
After 4 hours of fabrics, I had gone blind. Couldn't look at any more. Done. 
 
Time to hit the Bus and Skytrain during rush hour, which is no mean feat. 
 
Back to the hotel for a quick freshen up in this humid country before I head out to get some Hickory Ribs at the Restaurant down the road. 
One advantage here is you can sit outside of the Restaurant with the warm eastern breeze blowing at about 26 degrees and relax. 
 
An even further trip to another factory tomorrow, still planning the route but in Thailand the locals are always willing to help if you find yourself lost and taxis are plentiful. 
 
Over and out from the East, till tomorrow. Big sleep required. 
Day 10 
 
Woke up this morning by the Alarm, which means I am back to normal. No more 5 hour sleeps and wide awake at crazy times. Jet lag comes in many forms and guises. 
 
Walking out the hotel and Rhinestone Cowboy was playing. I knew it had to be a good day. 
"Riding out on horse in a star spangled rodeo" Not exactly. 

Today's mission was another out of town affair. Across the river and towards the end of the Skytrain tracks. I grabbed a taxi, simple ay....he had no idea where to go. Now I can speak pigeon Thai but I think the driver was from the moon or something. 
Used my orienteering skills which I gained in a cold damp scout hut and located at least the right location. Smiled and gave the driver a tip, made his day. 
Whistled a Motorcycle taxi, off we went again down the backstreets to find the factory. This is Thailand, no helmet, yes it's dangerous but sometimes you need that adrenaline rush.  
Factory looked small but clean. As it happens it wasn't small at all, standing at just over 3 storeys high. 
Again great people and without giving to much away, it's very exciting. 
 
Back to the Shirt factory afterwards with a McDonalds lunch for a taste of the West. 
 
Samples now done for 14.5" and 19.5" collars. Another great move for Sauce & Brown, even with these sizes it's still One of One Hundred in each design which makes them as rare as a Chip Shop in Bangkok. 

Now the new samples are made we will be looking for a model to wearer trial them. When we say model, not some fancy dancy from a modelling agency. We mean one of you. Yes you there, a proper mester. We live in the real world, not some photo-shopped fake media world. 
 
Afternoon was spent discussing Sauce and Brown going forward with the factory owner, who has a vast wealth of experience with all the big brands such as Ralph Lauren, Armani, Sauce & Brown etc. See how we are up there? 
You should always take time to listen. Yes, we may think we know lots but someone always knows more and those golden nuggets are priceless. 
 
Time for an evening meal with the Shirt factory owner and his family as the sun sets on the factory. The hospitality is always amazing, with the Thai people. 
After we said our goodbyes I decided to have a walk back to my hotel, much to their horror, but I like to see what is happening out on the streets and stretch my legs. It's only a mile or so. 
 
Friday night being Friday night, everywhere is packed in this party capital. I took a slow walk down one of the main bar streets. Found a bar at the end of the Soi (street), watched the evenings entertainment over a couple of bottles. 
 
Back at the factory tomorrow to finalise everything outstanding, catch up on emails and maybe take the afternoon off.........Oh just remembered, got another Print company coming to visit me around 2pm, so that's scuppered that idea. 
The things we do to keep you One of One Hundred. 

DAY 11 
 
Saturday mornings equal no lie in for Sauce & Brown, whether UK or Far East. 
Emails and samples collected from the Shirt Factory, too many to carry back by hand. 
Today I was transported to Italy for Lunch, a simple Pizza not pasta. The Thai people seem to love a bit of western food. 
Afternoon was spent having a finalisation meeting with the Print factory and ironing out some issues. 
Left early afternoon and made my way back to the bright lights of the city. 
Picked up some gifts for my little girl, packed the suitcase, had dinner at the hotel with a couple of beers watching the end of the Tottenham game and bed for 10. 
5 hours sleep before the 3am wake up to catch the red eye to Dubai. 

Dubai 11:30. 
Halfway back home. 
A couple of hours sat down in the airport to reflect on the trip. 
 
The success of the trip will be based on the actions we take going forward. We are not living a pipe dream, we have the experience to be contenders and we aim to fight our way through. As in any business we suffer setbacks, It's part and parcel of business. 
With your support in this venture we can grow. We want Sauce & Brown to be recognised as a luxury, affordable brand. 
The insight we have given reflects the depth of knowledge we have. 
 
Stay with us on this journey. 

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