Thakoon the next ‘Thaicoon’?

Thakoon SS 2010

Thakoon Spring/Summer 2010

It is not improbable if my experience at Paragon D S an hour ago is anything to go by.

I was traversing the store to get to the vertical garden side of the mall. A delighted squeal cut into my path. I looked up and saw a schoolboy dressed as a schoolgirl telling his look-a-like friend that “Thakoon is here”. Intrigued, I allowed my gaze to follow the youngsters, and true enough, just ahead, the Thai-made-good-in-NYC designer’s name in a skinny sans-serif typeface appeared like a masthead on a wall. But underneath the logotype there was no apparel, just eye wear. The space, no larger than an average apartment bathroom, housed two other brands, 3.1 Philip Lim and Costume National, but it was Thakoon who got his name emblazoned visibly above. Some monikers can be a source of national pride while others are the stuff of national disgrace.

Thakoon’s spectacles and sunglasses were not exceptional: either oversized shades or horn-rimmed glasses in the retro-modern styles that are not different from what other designer brands are presently offering. But they seemed terribly alluring to the two shoppers who alerted me to this part of the store. I did not stay long enough to see if the voluble duo bought anything (by now, others had joined them), but from their excitement and repeated try-on, it was not unreasonable to assume a sale (or two) would be made.

Many Thais I know are fans of Thakoon although I do not know anyone who actually owns anything by him. I suspect that the brand is desired only because he has achieved some success in America.  The guy is Thailand’s rising son, and he has brought fame to Thailand, just as any Miss Thailand had and would. I was told that quite a few local retailers had gone courting the designer in New York. Apparently, he refused to see them, leaving a terse message that he was not ready to sell in his home country. When one of your customers is Michelle Obama, will you be enticed even if Dr Pimpen Vejjajiva or Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra (formerly Shinawatra) could be potential customers? Still, Thais rave about him with the same enthusiasm as those fawning over Academy Fantasia stars.

And now that Thakoon has appeared and is repeatedly mentioned by Anna Wintour in the documentary film of the month The September Issue, he can only get more popular. I am not sure if, as a result, there would be a demand large enough for him not to ignore this part of the world, but I would be surprised if his clothes on Thai women stand out from other local designers.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they’re lacklustre. But do they look any different from, say, Kloset or Munchus? Sure, Thai women may buy and wear Thakoon with relish, but will his clothes make them look a cut above the rest? At the risk of annoying Thakoon’s fans, I find his S/S 2010 collections to be one of the most dizzying (after Rodarte?) of the New York shows.  I am not sure about the prints (they look like those from overstocks in Sampheng) and I have no idea why fallen shoulder straps are appealing. But most disturbing to me is the vaguely Balenciaga sensibility to the collection, particularly those fitted long-sleeved dresses with geometric panels looking like shields.

I can go on, but I can also guess that when your name appears in the editorial pages of Vogue and The New York Times, you can care less what is being said in Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

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