Bangkok is home to some of the coolest, edgiest, most creative fashion in the world. Under the design of Charlermkiat Khatikasemlert, Wonder Anatomie is one Thai fashion brand that encapsulates this energetic creative impulse — and then some. Here’s a truly unique Thai label that’s known for its unorthodox designs, dynamic inspiration, and out-of-the-box mentality. Based on the intricacy and beauty of the anatomy of living things, the designs of Wonder Anatomie really are a celebration of life’s incredible patterns. As the brand celebrates their 10th anniversary this year with a special exhibition in their Siam Center store, we spoke to designer Charlermkiat about his decade-long journey and his latest, most defining collection of his career.
[All images courtesy of Siam Center]
So, let’s start right at the beginning. What got you into fashion?
The beginning for me wasn’t in fashion at all. I was studying Interior Design at Rangsit University, but during that time I spent a lot of my free time walking around Siam Center shopping the new fashions. I was obsessed with all these edgy, up-and-coming young Thai fashion brands. At that time, this was brands like Greyhound for me. I loved clothes. Then just for fun one day, I decided maybe I should stop buying so many new clothes and start to make new clothes from ones I already had. I played around with pieces at home, turning them into new outfits and then decided to try and sell them. I was really surprised to see so many people interested in buying my creations, so it was then that I realised this could be my calling.
Did you change courses to study fashion instead then?
Well, I did a little taster fashion course that was run by Siam Center. But then I won a scholarship to study fashion in France, so I leaped at that opportunity. I’m so glad that I did, because from then I had opportunities to work with huge companies like Maison Margiela and Artisana. They were interested in my experience with remaking things from vintage, so I helped them to redesign from old materials like curtains, glass, and plastics — materials from interior design. It was weird to turn old items from interior design into fashion pieces; it was like an artistic symbol of my own transformation.
When did you decide to return to Bangkok to start your own label?
I returned to Bangkok after working at Artisana and started creating my own pieces to sell. I had a small shop called ‘Wonder Wonder’ in Chatuchak Market and then moved to the old Lido. But then Siam Center offered me a spot in their amazing Thai designers zone and I couldn’t believe my luck. I changed the label’s name to ‘Wonder Anatomie’, and it’s now been 10 years since that move.
Why is it called ‘Wonder Anatomie’?
While I was studying in Paris, I visited a lot of their museums. In these museums, they often display some huge beautiful and complete skeletal structures of animals and humans. It looks and sounds quite morbid and a bit sinister, but I found them so beautiful. All the detail and way everything fitted together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle — it was very inspirational to me. I wanted to turn nature’s beautiful designs and put an artistic dimension to it. Now my label is very much based on the principles of human anatomy design. It’s a fundamental point of inspiration for every collection.
Can you tell us about your latest collection and how it continues the brand identity?
The new AW19 collection is called ‘Twist’. I name all my collections with a single word so I can play around with the concept. Some of my previous titles for collections have included ‘Prototype’ and ‘Imperfection’. They’re also all words that I associate with human anatomy. The idea of ‘Twist’ is both visual and conceptual. On the surface, you can see lots of “twists” on classic pieces like button-up shirts and jeans — literally. Instead of buttons going straight down the middle, I’ve curved them around the shirt. The collection has got a very deconstructed aesthetic. I was thinking about the way human bodies and skeletons can change over time as part of evolution and adaptations to modern times.
What are your favourite pieces from the ‘Twist’ collection?
Since the brand is fundamentally interested in the body and anatomy, this collection also features what I like to call the “skeleton coats”. These look like normal wool coats and blazers, but I’ve lined the inside seams with plastic tubing that can be twisted and shaped in several ways to create cool effects on the structure of the coat. I love to experiment and have fun with this kind of thing.
The collection also features edgy pieces that play with the eyes and puts a twist on familiar structures. There’s a dress that looks incredibly streamlined but when worn, it turns out to be very comfortable and loose. There are also shirts that look like the collars have fallen from the neckline to appear instead as a chest pocket.
These are all quite cutting-edge, experimental pieces. What do you think most makes Wonder Anatomie a unique brand?
Wonder Anatomie is not a fashion brand that mass produces. I take pride in each of my designs and many of them are very unique pieces. I’ve come to understand more and more that mass fashion brands can be quite wasteful in their use of resources, so this is also the first collection where I’ve incorporated recycled fabrics and vintage pieces too. Levi jeans are given a Wonder Anatomie “twist” so I’ve made them my own — but the material is being reused which is better for the environment, and also makes the pieces more unique. I’ve had so many people buy pieces just to collect them as cool art pieces, rather than getting them to wear. It was an interesting idea and I realised that fashion doesn’t always have to try and appeal to the masses — it’s art. I like to keep developing and changing up the way I design in this way.
You said this new collection plays with the word ‘Twist’ both visually and conceptually. What are the concepts?
So, apart from the idea of giving classic pieces a ‘twist’ and creating visual twists and twirls on the pieces, we’ve also got the idea of motorways and roads for our campaign. The idea of ‘twists and turns’ also applies to life’s travels; the life-changing events you come across are like approaching turns in winding roads and junctions. But the aesthetics of being on the road also has quite a vintage and retro aspect to it, which also fits perfectly with what I’ve done for this collection.
Looks like you’ve had 10 years of twists and turns in your brand and career. What is the next ‘plot twist’ from Wonder Anatomie?
There have definitely been some crazy twists and turns in our story. I still remember how I felt when some Korean artists spotted our work and loved it. They helped us push beyond anything I had imagined – entering huge new markets, exhibiting at the biggest fashion shows and retailing at so many countries around the world. Even in Paris, where it all started for me, my label is being sold in Colette. I’ve also seen Wonder Anatomie shift more towards genderless fashion. It had previously been primarily a womenswear label, but I’ve found myself just naturally producing more oversized items so that men can wear them too. When we do fashion shows, we would always feature men. I think this universal fashion fits in a lot better with the brand’s identity and with today’s society. Now I think the brand will just continue to grow, adapt, and experiment.