I have interviewed Thakoon Panichgul a couple of times throughout the years and he always seemed reserved, quiet, and intelligent. At our latest meeting in Dallas, for breakfast and later champagne at his PA at FortyFiveTen boutique, I realized I was wrong about the “quiet and reserved” part. Once you get to know Thakoon, he is anything but quiet and reserved.
There have been a few misconceptions about the designer: that he’s very young and new in the fashion business for one (yes he was 29 when he launched his collection in 2004 but he’s far from young or inexperienced). And that he was a fashion journalist first and foremost who “took up” design– he actually took the job at Bazaar because of his love for fashion, not journalism! He attended Boston University on full scholarship and graduated with a degree in Business Administration (as any good, dutiful Asian kid would do). Rather than hang out with fellow business students, he surrounded himself with artists and the people he felt most connected to. But that business degree has served him well. Thanks to his eclectic background, Thakoon understands the ins and outs of his business, and he is hands down, one of the smartest designers of our time.
Thakoon keeps track of every aspect of his company, which includes not only design but the production side as well. Indeed, he is so in touch with his brand on a moment-to-moment basis, when he saw my tweet about an item I had ordered from a retailer but had not yet received, he followed up personally. Thakoon is adamant about the company’s controlled growth and for good reason: his business model has worked despite a downturn in the economy.
His aptly named sister lines, Thakoon Addition (a lower-priced range) and Carbon Copy (the lowest-priced line) have both done extremely well – women love them because these are the easy chic clothes we can pull on for our daily lives without thought. Carbon Copy takes all the innovative prints he used in his previous collection and manufactures them on less expensive materials. (A
Thakoon Carbon Copy Ruched Dress is around $300, compared to a Thakoon collection dress priced at $2,000).
A vastly talented designer with a brain for business is one that can only soar to the heights of fashion. And he continues to do so. For Spring 2012, he looked to bustling Indian spice markets for inspiration. He went bold, contrasting rich saffrons against powerful turquoise and infused the Middle Eastern flair with a unique cowboy flavor. He told me, “I’ve never liked the cowboy look, but you know when you dislike something so much that you become fascinated by it and end up loving it?”
When it came to the bags, he cultivated his affinity towards color even further. Most designers hire accessories designers, but Thakoon does it all. And they are 100% made in Italy (he oversees that personally as well). Sleek clutches of eel-skin make for a luxurious pop, belted totes will be tossed easily over the arm or body, and the popular Miss Rampling has been mini-fied in bright ostrich hues. Why so much ostrich? The bags were inspired by the ostrich cowboy booties (steel-tipped, no less!) used in the collection.
After his Dallas trip, Thakoon flew home to New York City for one day before jetting off to Tokyo to prepare for an event in Shanghai on November 3rd. The event is for his Tasaki by Thakoon line of jewels (yes, he also designs for the high-end jewel brand). How does he do it all?!
More importantly, what’s next for the charming and affable designer known for innovations in silhouette and prints? “I see myself as an inventor, wait ’til you see my invention ideas,” he told me with a playful glint in his eye. I cannot wait!