This past weekend, Teen Vogue hosted a Fashion University event for their readers who were eager to learn the ins and outs of the business.
Not only were they given the rare opportunity to visit the magazine’s editorial floor and famed fashion closet, but they also got the chance to sit down with designers like Richard Chai, Philip Crangi, and Thakoon Panichgul. In a discussion moderated by Amy Astley, Thakoon shared stories about his rise through the ranks of the industry and gave pointers to the many aspiring designers in the audience.
You may already know that his Fall 2005 presentation was the most buzzed-about of the season, or that his most famous customer is Michelle Obama. But here are some things you might not know about the designer. I definitely didn’t.
- His family didn’t initially accept his career in fashion. His mother and grandmother were expert seamstresses and didn’t see why he wanted to make a career out of something that they saw as just “work”. He learned how to sew very young and that fashion was much more hard work than glamour.
- He was a small-town boy. Raised in Omaha, Thakoon would hunt down editorials by Bruce Weber and looked forward to reading Vogue every month. They gave him a sense of escape and were his only real form of inspiration in his town. He sites art as his biggest design influence.
- He went to business school. He got a scholarship out of high school and felt that if he didn’t attend he would regret missing the opportunity. After graduation, he did everything he could to break into the fashion industry, and he took a job at J-Crew as a production assistant. Next, he started writing for Harper’s Bazaar, while at the same time spending all of his nights and weekends taking classes at Parson’s.
- He never has preconceived ideas for his collections. He doesn’t create his pieces around a common theme. Instead, it’s always a design detail that he’s into that shapes the collection.
- His interns go places. Thakoon hires very few interns, but he keeps them around a long time. He wants them to learn about every aspect of his business, and will make them work in various other departments before they ever get to design. One of his three year interns recently moved to Paris to take a job with Azzedine Alaia. Impressive.
- His number one tip for future designers: be well-rounded. Thakoon firmly believes that your teens and early twenties are meant to be filled with learning experiences. He suggests taking as many opportunities to learn as you can, whether it be through schooling, interning, or reading (ie: Women’s Wear Daily) to arm yourself with knowledge of the industry.