Sulada Limpichart never wanted to work in fashion, not in the least, although there's no way you could imagine her working in any other business after seeing her immaculate look.
PHOTOS: PATIPAT JANTHONG
"Like many girls, I loved shopping, but I wasn't interested in the fashion industry. I thought it was pretentious," she said, with such a stern voice that it makes you wonder whether her view of the industry has remained the same as it was when she was younger.
"I used to think people in this industry must be difficult to work with. I don't like anything fussy. I am honest and I can't please people. You know what I think from the look on my face. I thought that in fashion, you need to be good at promoting and marketing yourself in order to survive, and that's definitely not my kind of thing."
The first time Muse met Sulada, it was at Somerset House - home to London Fashion Week. She was dressed to the nines, so much so that she seemed more like what The International Herald Tribune's head fashion reporter Suzy Menkes described as the "peacocks" of the circus of fashion - those bloggers and celebs who pose and preen in front of shows for hordes of photographers.
She's that stunning, indeed. The only difference, however, is that Sulada had an air of someone who's always in a rush - someone who seems too busy to hang around in front of shows waiting for their turn to be photographed. She courteously greeted the Thai media and editors who came to the same show, but excused herself soon afterwards and dashed off in her stilettos.
Like all fashion journalists whose work is to report shows, and not just post photos with a one-sentence caption saying: "I like that", Sulada is dead busy during the fashion weeks, running from one show to another, before returning to her base to complete her report for Styloko.com - the shopping website she joined over a year ago as fashion writer.
The oldest daughter of Paween and renowned architect Pimpawan Limpichart - both a fixture in Thailand's social scene - Sulada grew up adoring clothes just as many other young socialites do. Finding herself lacking the skills to express herself through paper and pencils, she was encouraged by a friend who was taking a fashion journalism course to give writing a try. Sulada then enrolled at London College of Fashion, and became a rare, if not the first and only, so-called celebutante to earn a degree in fashion journalism - not fashion design, PR, marketing, or management, like many of the well-off fashion obsessed.
"There's a part of fashion aside from shopping that I love, and that's in line with what the course offers," she said, recalling her years at LCF.
"I love fashion history and cultural studies and these happened to be the main part of the course. So, the more I learned about fashion, the more I liked it. The more I liked, the more I tried to acquire knowledge. I have been collecting fashion magazines since I was 18 and it's never something I intended to do. I just loved to read and I wanted to know about designers - what they thought, where the clothes come from and how they're related to today's society. What makes a good and a bad collection?"
Although she admits she was never convinced by digital platforms, believing there's no way it could replace the experience of going from shop to shop to try on clothes, her view of it changed completely once she graduated just as leading online shops such as Net-A-Porter.com and My-Wardrobe.com were gaining momentum.
"Natalie Massenet was doing Net-A-Porter from her basement during those early days and one of my friends went to intern there," she recounted.
"I even told her there's no way this is going to work. But look what Net-A-Porter has become now! Even I myself shop online all the time. That's why I started to take an interest in digital platforms.
"I still loved magazines, but a lot of online shopping sites have great editorial and people don't check these pages simply to shop. These people are looking for news in the industry, and good shoppers aren't those who simply buy everything. Good shoppers are those who have fashion knowledge and they want more than just "Oh, this blouse is nice." They want the whole package. They want to read and find out more about new designers - the gem that no one else has discovered yet. So, editorial for shopping websites is very important."
Nevertheless, Styloko isn't an e-commerce website where transactions take place. Its purpose is to facilitate online shopping by compiling products from various sites such as Net-A-Porter and My-Wardrobe, as well as those of retailers such as Topshop, River Island, and Asos, together in one place.
Starting out as a blog, the current editorial content of Styloko has evolved into a unique package that is meant to both drive sales and to engage visitors and shoppers.
Sulada's role includes writing and selecting items from various sites to make a trend piece or shopping piece, as well as doing fashion show reports during fashion week season, even when it has no commercial relevance.
"The reporting is the part that has absolutely nothing to do with sales, but it's something we have to do because we have a lot of people will follow up these reports. If you don't do it, the site isn't relevant. Our reports are quite detailed.
"The company is still small, so we have no budget for Paris, Milan or New York. However, I still need to report other fashion weeks aside of London, too, so I need to wait until those press sites upload images from the whole show. You know, it's like four or five weeks of chaos during the fashion week season," she said with a laugh.
Running from one show to another as she does, let alone dashing home to finish the report soon afterwards - and she is still yet to see the day the company can afford a trip to cover other fashion weeks - you can't help wondering whether she has ever nurtured a grudge against the "peacocks" of the fashion circus, whether Sulada has ever felt bitter towards the way those peacocks have gained the kind of significance 99% of fashion journalists would never gain in their entire life.
"When bloggers started to gain significance in fashion, I admitted thinking: 'Why my job?"' she said, with a faint laugh.
"At the end of the day, a blogger is a blogger and a journalist is a journalist - they have their own roles, which are different. I accept their role in fashion and that they have their own market. What they do is different from what we do, although our market can overlap at times. But what we truly do - critiquing or writing about designers or trends, that's what they cannot do. That's a journalist's job.
"What I totally disapprove of is that sometimes, fashion week is full of bloggers and they have special treatment. Seats are limited and the space of real journalists are taken by bloggers. Also, since they can take money, some brands just pay to be mentioned, and this is not good."
But would this phenomenon of bloggers - of those who succeed mostly through intense self-marketing and PR - bring back the dark side of fashion that Sulada loathed when she was young? Does she, after all these years and after seeing the rise of these bloggers, still think fashion is a pretentious business?
"My perception of fashion has changed in a way," she said, smiling. "I still find part of it pretentious and it's still a lot to do with connections, but I have lots of friends working in fashion and many of them aren't like that."
THE FASHION MOMENTS
Sulada picks her favourite shows and designers
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN SPRING/SUMMER 2001
The ‘‘Asylum’’ collection that cost £70,000 and took seven days to build. ‘‘I loved Alexander McQueen’s shows when Lee McQueen was still alive. This particular show has models walking in mirror cubes and they couldn’t see the audience as they walked.’’
LANVIN SPRING/SUMMER 2007
‘‘I remember I was so impressed with the pop-art print on the shift dresses.’’
CHRISTIAN DIOR HAUTE COUTURE
SPRING/SUMMER 2004‘‘I was going ‘Wow’ watching this Egyptian show by John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture.’’
PRADA SPRING/SUMMER 2000
‘‘Prada is my favourite brand and I adore Miuccia Prada. In fact, I love shows that are theatrical and after seeing this Prada collection, I never looked at fashion in the same way again. I used to think good fashion should be elaborate, theatrical, and dramatic. This Prada collection made me understand that good fashion is one that makes a statement, but you could still wear it whenever. This Prada collection says that fashion can be fun, humourous, wearable and make a statement.’’
‘‘I think Marc Jacobs is so clever in the way he makes Louis Vuitton what it is now — it appeals to both the masses and those who are fashion-conscious. Just look at his collections — once you remove the heavy styling that makes it dramatic, you can just wear those pieces. That’s high fashion for me.’’
About the author
- Writer: Samila Wenin
Position: Muse Editor