It’s 24 hours after Thakoon Panichgul presented his immediately shoppable Spring 2017 collection, and now the designer is starting his second shift. “I’m definitely a little bit tired,” he laughs, looking inexplicably refreshed. He’s seated on a leather chaise in the back of his stunning Wooster Street store—all poured concrete and Vonnegut/Kraft furniture. He was getting into hosting mode. An open-to-the-public shopping event was about to begin, a key part of his new direct-to-consumer strategy. After 11 years in business, Panichgul shifted gears last season and jumped on the see-now, buy-now bandwagon—but in his own way.
Just before the doors opened, we sat down to discuss his Spring collection. It’s sold at a markedly lower price point, produced in limited quantities that will trickle out in small quantities. Translation? Visit Thakoon’s Wooster Street store every two weeks this spring for new merch. The designer himself will likely be there; he’s moved his studio on the premises. Read on for our Q&A with Panichgul below.
You must be exhausted.
I’m tired but this actually wasn’t as strenuous as it would have been if we had done a traditional show. We only showed ten looks and they were pre-styled in advance so in terms of the presentation itself, it was much easier to deal with this time. But it wasn’t very draining.
This is your second go at see-now, buy-now. What was the biggest lesson you learned from Fall and how did that change how you approached spring?
It’s really only been five or six months now since we reconfigured everything. We took everything apart and put it back together. It’s still a living and breathing thing, it’s an ongoing evolution. But the biggest lesson that I learned, especially when it comes to the presentation, is we are still a designer brand. And we need to show; we need to communicate to our consumer during fashion week. It's important because our customer expects that because we are apart from a lot of other see-now, buy-now brands, I’d say. In this new business model, it doesn’t make sense to do a typical runway presentation anymore. In a typical runway presentation, you have one big collection, you have 40 looks and you show the whole thing. For us, our cadence has changed. We’re delivering fresh, new ideas every two weeks. This format of a digital presentation was a bit more casual, and that makes sense for our business model.
So this is trickling out over multiple drops—how many in total?
In a Spring season, there will be six drops in total. So every two weeks over the course of three months time. It’s essentially, the same amount of looks we had done in the past but we’re just now breaking them into different deliveries to offer the customer newness every two weeks. It’s a bit more exciting. And because of that, we don’t have a big single story. We have microstories throughout the season.
The new model allows you to have a more direct dialogue with the customer—what did they tell you in fall, in terms of what types of pieces they were drawn to and which they weren’t? Did that at all inform your design approach for spring?
Absolutely. The biggest thing for me is the direct communication from the customer, accessing their thoughts and buying patterns immediately. Our studio is in the back here [at the Wooster Street store] so we see the customers come in and try on stuff. I get to talk to them. It’s fantastic. It feels kind of old school in a way, like an old Parisian atelier where the designer used to be in the back of the house. And with the online business, we see immediately what people are buying. What’s been very telling to us is that the customer comes for more than just the printed silk dresses. Whereas in the past when we were stocked at the department stores, I think there were limitations in that they would only buy things that they saw as being the Thakoon brand, which is printed silk dresses. So they’d buy a boatload of that and then just sprinkle them with other stuff. Whereas now we’re finding out that the Thakoon girl loves knitwear, shirt dresses, other things. I get to flex my muscle now in other areas, which is really exciting for the creative process.
You’re doing a more limited production for this collection. What is the strategy there?
Because we’re delivering more frequently, the idea is that when you see something, you want to buy it right away. In that sense, we didn’t want to go deep into the production of something because we want to be nimble. We want to be able to assess exactly what’s working and what’s not working. We want to react immediately. So for example, a tee shirt with a crochet trim and a peplum, we cut about 50 units of that and we’re seeing that it’s moving, because of that we’re assessing what we’ll do for the next Spring season. It allows us to be responsive. It’s giving us a better idea of what people are gravitating towards and building the business that way instead of just going in there, cutting 200 units of everything. This allows us to be nimble.
You approached price points a bit differently with this collection. Why?
Because now we’re direct-to-consumer there are cost-saving benefits that we put onto the customer now. Because there is no middleman. I think also price point is a big issue now more than ever, even in designer brands. I think customers come to expect—even if the customer can buy something, she’s more considerate about what she wants to buy because there are so many options out there. And she will splurge but she also wants to make sure she won’t get ripped off. So we price in a way that makes sense. We consider the quality and the craftsmanship and the fabrication and think, realistically what are you going to buy for this price? We’re not pricing our tee shirts at $1000 because that’s not 1000-percent markup. We price fairly but reflective of the quality and craftsmanship we put into it.