It's been a year since Thakoon Panichgul last had a presence at New York Fashion Week, and after a season off, he returns to the calendar with a completely restructured brand. On Thursday night, he'll show a new delivery of fall 2016 merchandise that will be available to purchase the same day, both at the newly relaunched Thakoon.com and at his first brick-and-mortar store, which opened Aug. 28.
In December, Thakoon was acquired by the investment firm Bright Fame Fashion, led by Vivian Chou (daughter of Silas), and announced plans to develop a new business model that places more focus on the consumer — further details of which came to light last month. The gist is that Thakoon has moved entirely to a direct-to-consumer model, so his designs will only be sold online and in his own stores. And, like many other brands this season, he has shifted to a "see now, buy now" show schedule.
Thakoon's Soho shop is located at 70 Wooster, formerly (and maybe somehow symbolically?) the home of Band of Outsiders' first New York store, which sadly closed in June just nine months after it opened. Panichgul has made it his own, though. The sun-drenched space is lovely and a bit more polished and feminine than that of its previous inhabitants, with minimalist leather benches, gold fixtures, white-oak trim and concrete walls that look a bit like marble due to the way they were poured. Clothing-wise, it's merchandised by "releases," of which there are four-to-six within every collection; there's a new collection about every three months. "As we learn as we move forward, we could be mixing in more classic items into the racks," explained Panichgul. We chatted with him a few days before the store opened about his new business model, the benefits of no longer working with buyers and why being part of fashion week is still important.
How has going direct-to-consumer changed your design process? Does not dealing with buyers make your job easier?
I'm able to stay true to what I want to do a little bit more. I've always been a guttural person; I've always known what I like and what I don't like and when I stick to my vision, it usually works out. I've seen that happen on the customer level — sometimes when you get too much information from all sides, from stores, from editors, it becomes a bit confusing. It's more refreshing to be able to just communicate my ideas down to the customer. Obviously, there's going to be a learning curve there as well, just because I want to make sure what I offer is working and is wholly original in terms of my own aesthetic, but commercial in terms of the business viability of it as well. But I like the constraints of that; I’ve always liked to work within constraints.
What can we expect from your show this fashion week? Are you thinking of it as being more for the consumer?
We are showing fall '16, but you’ll be seeing new products for this season coming up. It's closing in on the gap between when you see something and when you're interested in buying it.
It's for the consumer, but also, it just makes sense. We engage with long lead press in order to get the messaging out; we're getting the collection out there, but the show is... it's an experience. It’s communicating the brand in terms of the sensibility and the storytelling. It's not just for the consumer to shop.
Over the past couple of seasons we've seen a few brands ditch the runway altogether. Why do you still think fashion week is important?
Because it's storytelling: A lot of people pay attention to fashion week and it's important. When I was growing up, I loved fashion shows; I loved tuning in and seeing what people were doing. That's the artistry aspect of fashion that's really exciting. Otherwise it's not exciting anymore; it becomes soulless.
Now that you have financial backing and Vivian Chou has said she hoped to make you "the next best American designer brand," what's next?
I think we'll evolve the brand into a lifestyle brand. We're going to be global.
Absolutely. We did some accessories in the past, and we'll be bringing them back for sure. I love jewelry design; I want to be able to do that as well. I love designing not only clothes and accessories but also the lifestyle around that.