Thakoon A/W 16
Thakoon Autumn/Winter 2016. Photo credit: Yannis Vlamos

Designers come and go. Even successful names sometimes slip into oblivion. Reasons vary and after a couple of seasons, people stop asking why. When someone like Tom Ford says he’s taking a season off to rework and retool his brand, we don’t think too much about it; of course he’ll be back! When someone young, however, like Thakoon Panichgul takes a season off, we wonder if we’ll actually see them again or not. Plans don’t always work out as expected.

Fortunately, for Thakoon, everything seems to have gone according to plan, maybe even better. First, he re-booted his website with a promise of regular additions, not just at seasonal showtimes. Then, he opened a new brick-and-mortar store in New York, again with the same promise to keep things fresh. Then, the PR campaign launched and suddenly we were seeing the Thakoon name everywhere. Even Thursday afternoon, just hours before his show on a rooftop in Brooklyn, various online outlets were running features on his return. There was only one question remaining: could the clothes live up to the hype?

To say that the Thai-American designer has completely re-imagined his new collection is an understatement. Nothing of his previous work was present, at least nothing we could see against the silhouette of the dark Manhattan skyline.  For example, a year ago I would not have expected to see him using buffalo plaids. At all. Yet, they were a very strong element in this new collection. We saw them layered and scattered and chunked, never overpowering, but always adding a strong flavor to an ensemble.

Chantilly lace, which I can’t type without thinking of the old song by the same name, also factored enough to get the attention of just about every fashion editor on the rooftop. No, I’m not kidding. They’ve gone on and on about it all night. The lace is one of those elements that was once so horribly misused that most designers backed away from it in horror. Thakoon applies the lace creatively, such as tucked in the panel of a pencil skirt or adding length to a short checkered skirt. The element keeps the current-season collection from getting too heavy or too masculine.

Thakoon does wonderful things with floral silks and waffle knits. There are spirals of ruffles all over the place. Yet, there’s the unexpected as well. Handkerchief hems. Caped-back plaid on a bomber jacket. One of my favorites is a turtlenecked ribbed scarf. There is so much in this show, such a very full collection, that half the fun might be going through the pieces and seeing how many different style combinations one might create. The possibilities are numerous.

Following the current trend, 23 of the 31 looks were immediately for sale both online and in the New York store. More looks will be added throughout the fall. Thakoon has embraced this direct-to-consumer approach as strongly as anyone. He might even be better prepared for the challenges of see-now, buy-now than some other labels we’ve seen.

What happens over the next few weeks will tell us a lot. While the rooftop presentation is being generally hailed as an enormous success, consumers now get to decide whether  they’re going to actually buy the product. I’m expecting they will. Thakoon is the big “IT” designer of the moment and is getting a lot of attention drawing people to his website. The clothes and styles are practical and relatable. Sales should do well.

A year ago, had I mentioned Thakoon’s name most people wouldn’t have known it is a fashion brand. Today, it’s all anyone is talking about. Sometimes it’s good to step back, take some time off, and start all over.

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