Thakoon Panichgul is taking matters into his own hands.
The luxury fashion designer is the latest to ditch the wholesale retail model and adopt the direct-to-consumer approach through online and his first-ever store in SoHo in an effort to bring “magic back to fashion.”
Changing consumer shopping trends, department store’s sale culture, an oversupply of fashion, and a desire to control more of his brand’s story were among the reasons the designer shifted his strategy. The idea was three years in the making, but it was only made possible after his brand’s acquisition by Hong Kong-based Bright Fame Fashion last year. The investment is led by Vivian Chou, the daughter of Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors investor Silas Chou.
“I want to bring back desire of fashion,”Panichgul said about creating supply and demand around collections. Now, his collections will be introduced in season, with limited quantities being released approximately every two weeks.“Women still love fashion but there’s so much out there. They’re confused about what and when they need to buy so they’re just sitting back and waiting for it to go on sale.”
The former Harper’s Bazaar fashion writer-turned designer spoke to Glossy at his new Wooster Street store, which opened Monday, to discuss how his production process had to change, and how he plans to change people’s shopping habits.
Why move away from wholesale?
In the past, we’ve had to rely on department stores and specialty stores to tell our story. We have great partners who were able to do that, but we also had partners who might not tell it the way that we want it told. I could control my vision and story telling up to the pieces that go down the runway, after that, it’s fair game for everyone to interpret and see what they want to make out of what I showed. With this new model, I’m able to control message from the runway, to in store, to online and add additional content.
So wholesale is an old model?
A lot my frustration in the wholesale business model was that we were asked to deliver coats in June or July, and that’s not when consumers are shopping for than anymore. They were maybe 10 years ago, but they’re not anymore. The shift in mindset and transaction needs to shift the way we think about delivery now, too.
As people increasingly shop online, why open a store?
We’re a designer brand and we offer luxury clothing. While addressing the needs of consumer who is now shopping online, it’s still important to have a store because it represents the physicality of what the brand stands for. People want the experience of coming into a luxury designer brand to feel what the brand is about. They want to touch, feel, smell, listen, and they want to participate in the brand in a way that luxury is supposed to be consumed. It gives soul to the brand.
So it’s not about driving in store sales?
Whether or not she comes in and she feels it, and she walks away and shops online at a different time, that’s her choice. We’re offering her that choice. We have e-commerce set up to help her through that process. Our sales associates are not just sale associates for the store, they’re omni-associates, so people can come into the store and buy something through an associate [who are equipped with iPads for transactions, there are no cash registers] or if they want to buy something online, that same person can help them online. It’s a 360-degree of experience.
Your studio is also behind the new store, why is that?
We are now directly linked to the customer. [The customer] comes in, my designer can come out here and really see what’s working, what’s performing, what’s not performing. They can engage and see the customer putting on something and say, “Wow, that fit is wrong, or that fit is great, we should do more of that.” It’s closing the gap between design and the customer.
How will your new business model impact consumer shopping trends?
Consumers have been trained to expect sales and that is something I want to address. If we can control the prices better, there doesn’t need to be that off price time anymore and if we can control when we deliver the clothes into the store, at the time that people want to buy things, there might not be a need to mark things on sale.
How have you changed your Instagram strategy within all of this?
In the past, Instagram was a tool for me to personally communicate about the brand, but it was a lot more personal. People wanted to see what my dog was doing on Sunday, or what I was doing when I was shopping in paris. It’s not to say we’re taking away that intimate content, but as the brand is growing globally, it’s an opportunity for us to have additional content on this platform. We’re going to use it to communicate newness and excitement about new deliveries and what we’re doing.