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Minimal Fashion: The Only Son

Bangkok native and former Ksubi designer launch their next collection inspired by Anish Kapoor and Sam Messenger

The Only Son is the brainchild of Au Ekbutr Udomphol, a Bangkok native with an impressive CV. After graduating from a fashion course at the Sydney Institute of Technology, Au began his career modelling Ksubi denim in Sydney before turning his hand to freelance design for the cult brand in 2002. He then designed for Sass & Bide before Tara Subkoff’s Imitation of Christ lured him to New York. He returned to Thailand last year to launch his own brand. A/W2010 is his first collection of men’s, women’s and unisex clothing and accessories. “The Only Son” is the English translation of his Thai name, Ekbutr. The collection is reminiscent of the fashion of the last recession as well as true to current trends. Here, he takes time out to talk about breaking into fashion and his artistic inspirations.

Dazed Digital: Tell me what inspired your beautiful autumn collection?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Artists Anish Kapoor and Sam Messenger. I’ve taken elements from their sculpture works, and combined it with classic wearable items.

DD: The deconstructed coats are amazing. Which sculptures put you in mind of such shapes?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Anish Kapoor 'S curve' and the 'non-object' series sculptures, also deep red is the color he widely used, and described it to have 'a powerful blackness', like in 'my red homeland' and 'past, present, future' installations.

DD: Do you come from a fashion background?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: I studied fashion at Sydney Institute of Technology. No one in my family has a design or fashion-related career.

DD: You started out as a model. How were you discovered?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: It was in the northern beaches in Sydney where I met the boys from Ksubi and they asked me if I could be in their show.

DD: You modelled in some of Ksubi’s controversial early shows. Can you talk about any that were particularly memorable?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: The very first show was when they put rats on the runway which made front page news, the next one was an installation in a storage space, where I stood on a pool of fake blood with a blown up image of a piece of meat stuffed in a Converse Chuck Taylor in the background..

DD: What made you want to become a designer?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: It started when I wanted to make something I couldn’t find in the market place, I also love the process of making a collection.

DD: You worked for both Sass&Bide and Imitation of Christ. How have stints in Sydney and New York affected your work?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: I learned a lot about the business and commercial side, a process that may not be every designers dream but is a crucial part of the job. So my perspective on the value and quality that goes in each collection and my work ethic have been effected by those experiences. I also gained understanding about both market places.

DD: Bangkok-based designers are rare on the international fashion scene. Why did you choose to set up The Only Son there?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Our production is in Asia and also I enjoy being back home, after being away for almost half of my life.

DD: You’ve called your mother your earliest fashion influence. How did she dress when you were growing up?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Think Dynasty’s Alexis at work, my mum is still a working woman today. I have never made anything for her yet, although I’m giving her pieces from this collection.

DD: Which designers/stylists did you admire growing up?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Azzedine Alaia, Raf Simons and Helmut Lang. Joe Mckenna, Simon Foxton, Melanie Ward, Panos Yipanis and Carine Roitfeld when she worked a lot with Testino.

DD: Why give the title “The Only Son” to a brand for both men and women?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: I like that it gives a boyish attitude, women could choose the same pieces in the collection as men’s and mix it up.  

DD: Who do you design for?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Strong women and open-minded men.

DD: How would you define your style?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: Utilitarian meets sportswear, Future meets tradition.

DD: You divide your time between Bangkok and London. What do you get up to here?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: I visit London and other parts of Europe for inspiration, the fabric fairs and London Fashion Week/Paris Fashion Week. In the future I may choose to do something at London Fashion week or shoot the look books in London. To be clearer, Bangkok is firmly my base for the moment.  

DD: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Au Ekbutr Udomphol: My friend Jordan Askill is a great jewellery designer/artist, we are planning to collaborate on a jewellery collection in the near future. We’re working out our timeline since we no longer live in the same city. It will be pretty exciting if it does happen for next winter.