It's a tale of two brands. One premieres its new winter collection by highlighting all the key selling points that have endeared it to the more luminous players on the local social scene, guaranteeing a continuation of healthy sales figures. The other reaches a significant milestone - a decade in fashion - and brings out a runway collection that challenges all it has done before, taking off in an entirely new direction in order to ensure its look remains as fresh as ever.
The question is, in this day and age, what exactly is the best approach to design for a brand that has already entered its second decade, or is on the threshold of so doing. If there is such a thing as "best approach", that is.
"We want to talk about the concept of luxury, whimsicality and elegance, or even a sense of humour," said Pimdao Sukhahuta, creative director for Sretsis, about its recent show at Aksara Theatre in Bangkok's Ratchathewi district.
"In terms of fashion, we look back at 1930s Hollywood glamour as the epitome of luxury and then we thought of Broadway theatre, also borrowed as our concept for look-book shooting, which is represented through all those stairways, monochrome graphic lines and the format of the show as well."
That show was as much about suggesting directions Sretsis might take in the next decade as it was about celebrating its 10th anniversary in the fashion industry. And it's surprising the extent to which the brand has managed to retain customers, and even extend its fan base, over that period. In Thailand, it's easy to find empty Sretsis racks at places where stock is limited like Siam Paragon and the Emporium. Even at a time when fashionistas' radars were pointing towards the sexy minimalism of Milin and Vickteerut, Sretsis could still boast about the amount of attention being lavished on its latest creations.
"There are many people who are into fashion, but I don't know if they really love what they buy and wear or they just love it because of the trends. But loyal Sretsis customers have their own special character," Pimdao observed. "They understand what we do and will only wear what they really like. There are the three of us in Sretsis, all sisters, and each of us has her own unique character, so the brand tends to have enough variety to keep customers happy."
This time around, however, Sretsis has unveiled a slightly more solemn side of itself. The entire mood feels more sober, although you still have everything that makes Sretsis unique here.
"It's our new narrative for the present day," said Pimdao. "We still have the whimsicality and fantasy, but the days of mythical-creature prints are gone. We've just stopped looking at fantasy as something that comes from the imagination or another space. We're looking at it the other way around and we've start searching for something artificial - like candies, which have become a symbol of our indulgence but we retell the story of these candies from another angle, with a modern, sleek and elegant attitude.
"It's true that we have to move slightly closer to trends because, for us, fashion represents the time in which it takes place. The point is how we move closer to trends while still remaining ourselves. We change, but we do it in our own way. This collection, for example, is defined by the motto 'sleek cuteness' which doesn't seem to go well together. There's something sexy about it, but it's not sexiness as people usually think of it. There's also an element of parody, like banana and cherry prints, but we have to make sure it turns out the way we want it to be."
Not long before Sretsis threw its 10th anniversary bash, Disaya, that classmate from the early 2000s school of vintage femininity, welcomed a horde of fashionistas and VIPs to its special winter 2012 showcase in the ballroom of the Sofitel So Hotel. The turnout was a testament to Disaya's status as one of Bangkok's most popular fashion boutiques.
"I just want everyone to come and have fun, and that's also because our new work revolves around the idea of an afternoon tea party," said designer Disaya Sorakraikitikul.
Disaya does not need to say much about her eponymous brand because the latest looks from its "My Cup of Tea" collection is a beautiful blend of all the ingredients that have made this deliciously sweet fashion house such a local favourite. All the trappings of the tea-drinking tradition - from trays of cakes and mountains of teacups to the blue-and-white ceramic tea sets - form the backdrop for a parade of printed dresses in a sumptuous palette of winter hues, from blueberry-purple and cream to rose pink and liquorice black. This array of special dresses is complemented with all the elements and attention to detail that have made the brand the darling of all the classiest local debutantes, whether it's techniques like trompe l'oeil or dresses in floral shapes, or Disaya's signature scallop trimming, specially printed lace or laser-cut floral applique.
The collection speaks for itself, saying much louder than words that this is not the time for Disaya to move in a new direction or get involved with new fads. Instead, survival for this brand seems to be all about continuing to do well what it has always done best.
When two of the three most successful survivors of the vintage-femininity design wave of the early 2000s exhibit such a marked difference in approach, fashionistas are left with the question as to what exactly they should welcome into their wardrobes over the next six months.
Fashion insiders are keeping a close watch, however, on the last member of this trio, Kloset, the most commercially successful of the three in terms of the local mass market. The only thing that's clear to us is that all three brands are currently feeling the wind of change. They have grown greatly thanks to input from young designers and their struggles to come up with a direction for the future reflects, in a way, the increasing maturity of the home-grown fashion scene.
About the author
- Writer: Manit Maneephantakun