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Thakoon Panichgul is a Thai-American designer best known for his namesake line, Thakoon—a favorite among celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and political figures such as Michelle Obama.
In the latest episode of our podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr, Panichgul shares his journey from fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar to then pivoting careers to quickly become one of the most well-respected fashion designers in the industry. Along the way we got to hear about his nerve-wracking first encounter with Anna Wintour, the sabbatical that led to his reinvention and new passion project Hommegirls, plus the closet staple he recommends most. Ahead, get a glimpse at our conversation, then tune in to the Who What Wear podcast to hear the whole episode.
So tell me a little bit about going from, okay, here are 10 pieces to I’ve taken some classes, I’ve put something together, to being like a full on business.
I was young, probably 26 or something at the time. Ifyou make it in New York, like they say, you can make it anywhere, and when you are here in New York at the time you have ambition—and I was ballsy. But at the same time, I was also very naive. I just said to myself listen, one day at a time. I’m just literally going to wake up and the calls are going to come and it’s going to tell me what I’m going to do next. So that’s what led me. I put the presentation together, Vogue came and said, “Listen, you know, we love what this is, can you take the collection up to see Anna Wintour the next day?” I didn’t even know what to think. I mean, obviously, you know, she’s a legend. So I literally went by myself, took four garment bags up, I set the pieces up in her office, and waited for her to come in. She came in and she sat down at her chair, and just sat there and I started presenting. I remember, I had to get up because I wanted to really show her the details of the clothes and the minute that I went to grab the first piece of clothing, I saw that my hand was shaking so much. I just had to tell myself to kind of just get it together and you’ve only got five minutes.
I’m curious about what that time [sabbatical] was like for you. Were you scared about walking away from it even a minute? What did you find on the other side of it didn’t go the way you expected? Was it unexpected?
It was a journey of like sadness and misery, and then light at the end of the tunnel. Really goodnessIn the beginning, when you come up in the fashion industry with runway collections behind you, you have this feeling that if you step off of the runway, you’re never going to be seen and heard from again. It’s almost like people are gonna forget about you, right? So that’s the fear that was really real. But then, you know, I said, fuck it. Is that going to be the truth? Let’s, see if that pans out, right? I’ll figure it out—that was always my mantra.
The first couple of months, I just would call all my friends, make sure that I was still connected. It’s like, do you want to have lunch with me? Let’s have a drink, let’s have dinner like I was always trying to stay connected to everyone I knew in that industry, because I didn’t want to be forgotten. And then, after a while, I settled into, oh, maybe I should just actually be traveling a little bit. I went to Marrakech. I went to Cuba. I went to Mexico. I just went all over the place. And that was when things started to open up creatively. I saw things differently. I stepped out of the fashion bubble. And I saw what the bubble was doing to people that were still in the bubble. And I was so thankful to have that opportunity to kind of look from the from that perspective, from my perspective. Creatively, I walked away with so much I started Hommegirls, which is my magazine and passion project. That idea came to me while I was on my sabbatical, the new iteration of Thakoon came to me while I was on this sabbatical—I highly recommend it.
I’m curious about, from your point of view, what some of the foundational staples are that everyone should have in their wardrobe?
I think that you should have a classic button-down in your wardrobe. I love classic ones that are [menswear] looking. I also love ones that are sort of slightly, I keep saying bohemian, but I don’t know if people interpret the word bohemian differently. For me it’s sort of this slight femininity with eyeleting details. I like to kind of cut that with like a very sort of city-cool-girl kind of vibe. So like a collarless button-down that we have in a white eyelet, that’s slightly oversized and is also a classic staple especially for the summertime. What else? I think that a classic stove pipe or straight-leg high-rise pant is always an essential. I love dresses. I love skirts, like mini skirts, but I think that pants are always super practical.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Next up, check out our previous episode featuring Sadie Sink.