Commercial Real Estate & Advisory

Thakoon Shows Us Around His First-Ever Store – And His New Direct-to-Consumer Business Model

By Nicole Phelps | August 29, 2016

CélineMoschino, and Byredo have a new Wooster Street neighbor as of 11:00 o’clock this morning. Thakoon Panichgul, the New York designer who has shifted to a direct-to-consumer model (he’ll present an in-season Fall ’16 collection next week at New York’s Spring ’17 shows), is opening his first-ever store at number 70. The 2,500-square-foot double-height boutique designed by Giancarlo Valle of SHoP Architects, with poured concrete walls by Fernando Mastrangelo, furniture by Vonnegut/Kraft, and light fixtures by Michael Anastassiades, reflects the deep pockets of his new backer, Bright Fame Fashion, which took a majority stake in Thakoon in 2015; this is no start-up operation.

Of course, Panichgul has been in business for 11 years. While the new strategy has entailed many changes (more on that below), the shirtdresses with a twist, statement sweaters, and other pieces that line the racks of the new shop and e-commerce site,, will look pleasingly familiar to his longtime fans. “That’s the one thing everyone’s believed in from the get-go,” he said, “that the aesthetic is strong and it resonates globally. It stays.”

So, what’s different about Thakoon 2.0, then? For starters, you’ll be able to buy much of what you see on his runway straight away with the rest arriving in limited-time, limited-quantity releases approximately every two weeks, which sure beats the traditional four-to-six-month wait time most brands operate with. Also good news: the next-level shopping experience you can expect on Wooster Street. Panichgul himself will be on the premises; his atelier is tucked into the back. “There’s romance in that for me,” he said. “I think of Coco Chanel coming down from her apartment [on the Rue Cambon] to her store and seeing customers. It has an intimacy.”

Here’s what else Panichgul had to say on the subject.

You’ve talked about at-your-fingertips shopping, and e-commerce is obviously important, so why open a store?
Obviously we’re digital first, but the tactile part is still an important component, especially at the designer level. People want to be able to dream, to touch and feel, and to aspire. The only way to do that is to really build out a store that communicates that vision. The store functions as a window. But it’s truly omnichannel.

What does that mean?
We’re structuring it as a true omnichannel company, where inventory is living in the basement of the store and it’s going to serve as a fulfillment center for this region. It will bring the product closer to the customer, faster.

It’s almost like taking a lesson from Amazon. That’s obviously a different thing, but they have fulfillment centers everywhere, and that’s what women have gotten used to, this very fast, efficient, get-it-now mentality.
Exactly. Look at the Apple store. Apple doesn’t need stores; the technology you can buy online, but people like going to those stores. I like going, the air-conditioning is really good, the service is friendly, I use their Wi-Fi—it’s a hangout and you get to feel the brand. I want to bring that to the designer level.

How do you do that?
We’re looking at it as an experience, giving the best experience a designer brand can give. When the customer comes in she is working with an omniassociate, as opposed to a sales associate. At the store level if the customer engages with an associate, even if she buys online, she’s going to be connected to that person so that person can help her there, as well. She can buy it and take it with her, or we can send it to her—that’s a luxury experience. Or we can guide her to buy on an iPad without having to take anything with her and then we’ll ship it to her wherever. We’ll also be transparent about what merchandise we have where, and it we don’t have it, we’ll make it seamless for her to get it from another part of the country.

Can you get the new Thakoon at Barneys or Bergdorf’s?
You can’t. Unless one of them were to say, we are servicing the customer who’s on this cadence now, where it’s completely show now, buy now, wear now. We’re not ever going on sale, that’s a different business model than the department stores.

What have you learned about your customers since the clothes went live on your e-commerce site early this month?
The tried-and-true things—like the shirtdresses with the little twists—they love those and they’re buying those. It takes the consumer longer, but she likes it and she wears it a lot and she wants to replace it, whereas department stores wouldn’t buy them again because they’ve already bought that style. I’m able to develop Thakoon classics, whereas before, we weren’t able to. We’re able to build out breadth now, those are things that I enjoy designing into because they’re problem-solving pieces for women. I don’t think that women always want newness. They don’t always want novel things, either. That’s a good learning as well.

What are your designer friends saying? Are they curious?
Yes, they are. It’s a weird time in fashion. Everyone is trying to figure out their own path to success. I’m fortunate to have the luxury to do it in a way that’s pure. That no one’s scared about taking their time, as opposed to having the pressure to sell, sell, sell, and produce, produce, produce. I think the exciting thing about today is that designers can take control of what they’re doing in a way that they haven’t ever been able to before. Brands can grow direct-to-consumer now in a massive way without needing the assistance of department stores, per se, or even media.

Speaking of direct-to-consumer, I’ve noticed a lot of activity on your Instagram.
In the past it was me posting pics of my dog, but there’s been a strategic shift. It’s a communication tool now, a way to learn about the customer. It doesn’t take away from the vision of a designer. For me, I’ve always been a designer who thinks about the clothes, and the woman and the wardrobe. At the end of the day, clothes have to be worn. I respect artistic designers who do visionary things, I’m a fan of them, but that’s not the space I communicate in. For me, it makes sense that I understand the customer.

And you’ve actually built an atelier for you and your team behind the store?
Yes, the idea behind that is bringing it back to a storefront, and the designer being connected to the store. To have that connection with the customer is good, and for the customer, it’s a nice draw.