ThaiOasis Designer of the Month Designer Pimdao "Pim" Sukhahuta Creator of Sretsis, Bangkok
Designer Khun Pim
Sretsis (the word "sisters," spelled backward) is an ongoing collaboration that is 25 years in the making, although the company, founded in August 2002, by Khun Pim, is less than three years old.
Pimdao "Pim" Sukhahuta was born in Bangkok in 1979. From her earliest memories, she recalls playing with dolls, and knitting Barbie outfits with her older (Klaiduen, or "Kly") and younger (Matina) sisters, and play-acting with their mother's clothes and make-up.
At the age of 15, she was off to New Zealand to study English, finished high school in England, and majored in MIS at a college in Surrey. Driven by a lifelong passion for design, she changed career direction. "Growing up, I never knew there was such a thing as a fashion designer. In Thailand, we actually have to choose our career track at the age of fifteen, then gear our education to that. I was never thrilled with programming in C++, and in England, I finally discovered what a Designer was, and that I wanted to be one." Her mother, an independent-minded communications consultant, encouraged her daughter in her new direction: "My father (a policeman) and my mother always encouraged us to follow our hearts ... I didnít cross the line with them, but I didnít stay in the box, either."
Pim's portfolio was soon accepted by New Yorkís prestigious Parsons School of Design, and she was on her way. Joining her in New York were sisters Kly and Matina. Kly, who studied economics at Thammasat University, wanted to branch out to a more artistic career, and went to NYU, eventually ending up in the magazine field. Matina was 15, getting exposed to the diverse culture of New York. "My sisters and I all wear the same size clothing, so we always swapped fashions," Pim notes. "At the same time, our aesthetic was growing together, and our apartment started looking like a museum" fueled by acquisitions of vintage clothing and housegoods.
In August of 2002, a year before she was slated to graduate, Pim, with her mother's assistance, opened the Sretsis shop in Bangkok. "I didn't think I was ready, but Mom gave me two nights to think it over. I did my logo in one night, and opened the shop with 15 designs."
Launched in 2003, Pim's first major collection was Dreamland Circus, inspired by a series of 1920-30s, circus photographs taken by Edward J. Kelly. Utilizing motifs such as custom circus prints and images of Siamese Twins, she created a vintage-look collection utilizing silk chiffon.
Her first official fashion show, held during Elle Bangkok Fashion Week of 2003, highlighted her Heart collection. Feeling that heart motifs had become cliché, she juxtaposed common written love slogans with bold patterns amidst a crazy-quilt of blouses, skirts, gloves, and undergarments.
Her Faerie collection (Spring-Summer 2005) is "a feminine escape from reality where sweet innocence and sexy mysteriousness come together." Inspired by Art Nouveau (and the Pre-Raphaelites of William Morris, from what we saw), her prints feature fairies, mushrooms, and flowers, she creates an Alice-in-Wonderland-like world of "chiffon and chartreuse." Faerie consists of "whimsical prints and nostalgic details with modern-day attitude ... we want girls to experience the regular joy of dressing up."
The sisters continue sharing time and sanuk together, personally and professionally, with Kly now the marketing expert for Sretsis, while Matina designs Sretsis' jewelry collection. Although she finished her design degree barely two years ago, Pim is a young veteran who is already making a strong mark on Bangkokís emerging fashion world.
"I think of myself as a customer, and Iím always looking for what I canít find in the shops ... fun and playful clothes... thatís the foundation of my designs..."
"Silk chiffon has traditionally been boring ... I found that the fabric can be made young by re-purposing the old materials, by adding fun elements, influenced by the vintage clothing I love to collect."
"I fell in love with 1920s silk chiffon dresses, but I try to adapt everything to todayís world ... today, you can wear a t-shirt with a chiffon dress, and wear sneakers or boots."
"You can really do anything you want to create your own look, from cinching large vintage dresses with a belt, to wearing old earrings as brooches ... I like the idea of turning a guyís suit into womenís fashion."
"Why should a V-neck and tight clothes mean 'sexy'? ... Thatís not how I view fashion ... "my clothes arenít Ďclean-cutí and minimalist, and Iím certainly not a designer in the Thai traditionalist school ... I have an international perspective, and Iím proud to be Thai, but Thailand may not have that much of an influence on my work."
"I design S-M-L for Thai people, and our customers range from 25 to 40. We have one Western lady, whoís between 40 and 50, who loves our designs, and they fit her well (sheís a dancer, we discovered). We are also selling through the TG170 shop in New York, where our S-M-L sizes are actually one size larger for Western customers.Ē