In our second installment of our New Fashion Empire Builders series, we turn Stateside to focus on Thakoon. Designer Thakoon Panichgul’s namesake label has become increasingly visible in the last year as Michelle Obama, Tilda Swindon and Wendi Murdoch have each worn his frocks to high profile appearances. Panichgul had previously collaborated with Target and Nine West, but unlike the rapid rise of other American labels such as Proenza Schouler and Zac Posen, he has taken a slow boil approach to empire building.In our interview, Panichgul discusses this strategy in addition to revealing his new project launches and views on weathering the current market conditions.
JC Report: We’re referring to you as someone building an empire, tell us about the ownership structure of your company.
Thakoon Panichgul: The company is privately owned. We have great support to do what we believe in.
JCR: Tell us all of the different projects within your fashion kingdom?
TP: We have just launched a shoe collaboration with Giuseppe Zanotti, which is very exciting because I have looked forward to having my own shoe line for quite some time. For Fall 2009, we launched a capsule collection called Thakoon Addition, which allows me to explore new ideas and concepts. I am interested in newer projects that are not rigid or necessarily a part of the standard fashion system.
JCR: You’ve steadily held to your signature aesthetic and held on to the purity of your line, but you’ve lent your design talent to many entities. Do you see that as a key component to the new empire building structure?
TP: Whenever I am designing my own collection or collaborating on another project, I try to stick to my core design aesthetic. It is always important for me to design something that a woman wants to wear and feels comfortable and confident in.
JCR: How do the new emerging empires differ from existing fashion empires?
TP: Young designers are forced to really examine what makes them different and unique in this saturated, competitive market. I really think it is important for emerging designers to go with their gut feelings and stick to what they really believe in. The individual voices are what really count now.
JCR: Do you have a business role model?
TP: I respect business owners who have gone with their gut instincts regardless of the market’s fluctuation.
JCR: In which regions are you focusing your business development efforts on, and why?
TP: We initially focused on the American market; however, as the brand has grown, we have shifted the focus to include more of an international perspective. Consumption on a global level cannot be overlooked.
JCR: How is the economy impacting your business?
TP: Customers are really thinking more about each and every purchase. It is very important in this economy to offer something that is not only an interesting, exciting design, but also a good quality and price.
JCR: How do you plan to stay the course?
TP: I plan to stick to what I really believe in. Customers are always looking for something special—I will continue to try to offer things that are new and innovative.
JCR: Are you methodical in your business development planning?
TP: I am not methodical, but common-sensible. With a new market each day comes a new perspective. One advantage of having a small company is that you have daily flexibility in your long term and short term decisions.
JCR: How is the face of consumption changing?
TP: Consumers are more aware than ever. Sometimes they want everything all at once; my challenge is to offer it.
JCR: What are the core aesthetic values of your brand that will stay the course as it develops?
TP: I always try to offer styles which are inherently classic with a bit of a twist. My clothes are a bit off-kilter, innovative, yet wearable. They are simple but true.
JCR: What role does the celebrity factor currently play in exposing your brand?
TP: Small companies and young designers like me oftentimes do not have advertising campaigns. Anytime a celebrity wears one of my garments, it offers a level of exposure that I would not normally have. For instance, Michelle Obama has exposed many people to Thakoon on a global level.
JCR: Is your idea of building an empire envisioning your brand in existence 50 years from now?
TP: It is important for me to work with a long term vision of where I would like things to be, but also focus on the everyday decisions.
JCR: How does new media figure into your empire building efforts?
TP: Everything happens so quickly now. Images are transmitted in an instant. We are always searching for ways to get attention in a different, new way that may not have necessarily been done in the past.
This Inteview was conducted by Jason Campbell.