Tawn Chatchavalvong is not new to the fashion game, having been in the limelight of the Thai fashion industry for almost a decade with his eponymous ready-to-wear label TAWN C. We also interviewed him a couple of years back when his desire for the brand to expand overseas was only a dream. Today, rumour has it that the Bangkok-based brand has spread its wings across the globe — from Paris and New York to Saint Petersburg and Hong Kong. Having featured in both multi-label stores and on online sites, TAWN C. is blossoming into a well-established international fashion label. It’s officially time for us to shed light and discuss with him his successful path as a designer and the upcoming plans in the near future.
My name is Tawn, and I’m the fashion designer of my own brand, TAWN C. We’re a Bangkok-based apparel brand, focusing on producing ready-to-wear collections especially for women. It has been eight years now since I started the brand and lately we also distribute it to other key cities around the world. I didn’t graduate from a fashion school, but I followed my passion to become a fashion designer. In 2016, I was the first award-winning Thai designer of the Accademia Italiana, a fashion institute in Italy. Two years later, I was also a runner-up for the Vogue Fashion Fund.
Looking back to the fashion history, I love the designs of Yves Saint Laurent, and look up to Oscar de la Renta as a fashion designer. They are both my idols, but not my source of inspiration. My inspiration mostly comes from the women that I meet and talk to. Women are essentially the ones who inspire me to produce clothes that resonate the brand’s signature style as well as letting them express themselves.
Since I first founded the brand I’ve always focused on three DNAs. First, I want my clothes to be made from top-notch materials, and secondly, with the excellent craftsmanship from local Thai tailors. Lastly, I want to give, as much as possible, a great attention to detail in my process of producing these garments. With these three qualities as a base, I’d describe my brand’s signature style as classic with a modern twist. My collection includes blouses, pencil skirts and goddess dresses, which are obviously not new in the fashion world — in fact you might have seen them for decades — but I like to change some details to make them up-to-date.
I am a fashion designer, but at the same time, a businessman who wants the brand to survive and evolve over time. In the past few years, the retail game has changed a lot. Although our brand has a loyal group of customers, we all know the consumers can switch their interests all the time. I understand that, so my goal is to keep my old customers happy as well as coming up with new strategies to cope with the world and gain attention from a new group of customers. In short, I have to balance my business role with my passion for fashion.
After I received the award from Accademia Italiana, I become more well-known in the European fashion cycle. I found a partner in Paris who wanted to present my brand in his multi-label showroom, many of which included sophisticated pieces from world-class brands. I first launched in Paris Fashion Week about two years ago, and gradually, seasons after season, I introduced myself and showed my dedication to keep expanding my brand. Now, we finally have Paris as another base of allocation aside from Bangkok, distributing to Paris itself, to New York, and to Kuwait, our biggest market now. During fashion week, about six months before the actual launch date, I’ll bring in my new designs and they will invite buyers to order my pieces and give me advice on my collection in order to better meet the customer needs.
When it comes to working on the collection, of course, my inspiration plays the most important part. I’d normally start sketching what I want to see in my 30-look collection including the key colours, silhouettes and clothing techniques. Then after the fashion week, I’ll make an alteration to some elements to fit with customers lifestyles in each market.
Each market is quite different. I need to adapt my clothes but still make sure that they are cohesive with the collection. For instance, I’d make a dress with a long cape or light scarf for the Middle Eastern customers. With cultural sensitivity as well as price ranges in mind, this is how my collection evolves and comes into form. To introduce something new each season, I like to add a fresh twist to my collection, too.
My latest collection is called ‘The Forbidden Love’, inspired by the late Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson, an American lady that British King Edward VIII fell in love with. Their marriage was caused much social disapproval and ultimately led to the king’s abdication. I was fascinated by this love story, but mostly inspired by the style of clothing during this time. In a way, it all boils down into one question: if Wallis Simpson were a modern woman in present days, what would she wear on a daily basis, and to events? Along those lines, the collection features a range of everyday-wear pieces and evening gowns, with canary-gold and blue colour palettes. As I want to represent the strong aspect of the Duchess, the designs also offer vintage touches with a masculine twist, from ladylike pleats to tuxedo-like details. The fashion show was staged last February and the collection will be launched officially from late October to early November.
Our flagship store is in Gaysorn, and we’re trying to enter other markets, too. In the last season, we were able to expand our brand to Saint Petersburg in Russia, our newest market at the moment. We’re also planning to enter the Chinese markets both in the mainland and Hong Kong through e-commerce websites, which are now still on trial, but will launch officially at the end of the year. Having debuted during Shanghai fashion week, I’ve planned this for almost two years since a Chinese agency contacted us through our showroom in Paris. It’s an eye-opening experience to branch out, and an exciting opportunity for business-to-business service in a challenging market like China.