The New York designer talks inspiration and a secret talent for hip hop dancing on a recent trip to London
Thakoon Panichgul's womenswear is a product of his upbringing, combining femininity and American sportswear. The New Yorker began penning words, not designs, as a fashion writer before realising his runway ambitions. Since 2004 he's helmed his eponymous label and produced capsules for Gap and Target which introduced a wider audience to his vision. During a trip to London, we caught up with the designer to talk inspiration and a secret talent for hip hop dancing.
Dazed Digital: Thailand, Omaha and New York are your background. How has each place influenced you?
Thakoon: I've been asked this many times about Thailand but I think the only comes to mind is that sense of refinement about the women there. I remember when I was younger I would always think that women were so feminine, there's such a feminine quality in the way they behave. And everyone dreams of going to America: I had never spoken English before, so I had an idyllic image of what America was. The midwest, Omaha, is the epitome of Americana, sportswear was a big deal; t-shirts and oxfords and jeans. That has influenced me, combined with a sense of refinement.
DD: You spent four years as a writer and fashion editor before creating your own collection…
Thakoon: I was always kind of interested and dancing around doing it the whole time. I fell into writing… I just wanted to learn about fashion and working at a magazine I'd see all aspects of it. At the same time, I'd visit designers' studios and thought it would be fantastic to do that.
DD: Did you have flashed of ideas for collections?
Thakoon: I did. I had notebooks that I would write down stuff in and two years into the magazine, I started interning on the weekends, I would help sew chiffon samples and the more you do, the more you think. I didn't think I could do fashion design. There was this black and white mentality in my head, which was self-inflicted. Just because you didn't study fashion, doesn't mean you can't be a fashion designer. That was wrong.
DD: Have you ever bumped into someone in an unexpected place wearing your collection?
Thakoon: For me milestones are always editorial imagery. It excites me when I see that Grace Coddington shot my stuff with Steven Meisel. Moreso than celebrities wearing the clothes. It's how I stay inspired. Funny enough, I did this collection for Target one time, and it was massive, I still see those dresses on the street. I think they were 49, 59 dollars and that kind of context was cool, your name has gone into another realm. I was at a Fleetwood Mac concert and a girl was wearing one of those dresses, jamming to Silver Screen, one of my favourite songs. That was cool.
DD: Why not menswear? And how do you like to see men dress?
Thakoon: I would love to do menswear. It's a very specific thing for me, very systematic and uniform and I think that if I were to do it, I would approach it that way. That attitude I find more refreshing than branded clothes and it's how I would like to put it out there. The shoes I'm wearing right now, I don't know what the brand is, I got them in Tokyo and there's something anonymous about them I prefer. I don't want people to be like, that's that shoe from that season, I don't think it's about that for men.
DD: What are the things in London you enjoy the most?
Thakoon: The pots of tea! Plus there's a quirk in this city you don't get in NY. Maybe it's because New York has become more sterile – I still love it but it's become very polished. I think there's a lot of money in London, but you find eccentricity here too. You could be punk or crazy, but you still have respect for a certain traditions.
DD: Tell us something we wouldn't expect of you...
Thakoon: I used to hip hop dance. I was a raver and then I turned into a hip hop dancer, I was in a troupe. At one point we had a performance and a scout came to look us. I like music and I like dancing. If I weren't a designer, I'd be a musician.