You can achieve your goals with luck, but the success will never be permanent. The one thing that can truly turn your passion into reality is hard work,” muses 49-year-old Jirayong Anuman-Rajadhon. One might wonder why a successful investment banker with her own SEC-approved boutique advisory—JayDee Partners—has decided to throw her hat into the fashion ring. But she assures us that Phya, her luxury handbag brand, is not simply an expensive hobby or a reckless endeavour. “My biggest aspiration since day one has been to see my brand stocked in key fashion cities across the globe,” she says.
Launched last year, the label isn’t a mere byproduct of her fascination with fashion. “Looking good adds an important edge to credibility in my line of work, so I’ve been a long-time collector of designer handbags and accessories. But I am not one to follow trends— I have always had a taste for unique designs and a penchant for exquisite craftsmanship,” Jirayong says. And so those are the things that Phya offers. Designing each piece herself, she derives particular influence from the architectural shapes and forms of the Art Deco era.
The name Phya, an indication of regal elegance, was also inspired by Jirayong’s grandfather, the illustrious Thai scholar Phya Anuman Rajadhon. Although he passed away when she was just nine months old, she still feels a strong connection to him. “It was an honour for me to name the brand after him,” she explains, but also acknowledges that building a fashion brand from scratch was no easy task. “I faced many challenges in the beginning, not least because of my lack of experience. After all, once I’d completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Thammasat University I went into one profession and stayed in it for 25 years. The extra costs of establishing the brand was also eye-opening,” she laughs. “But I treated those expenses as the necessary cost of research and development.”
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So how does Jirayong manage to alternate between running an established investment banking business and Phya’s recently opened flagship store at Gaysorn? “It isn’t easy but these days multi-tasking has become the norm. Thanks to mobile phone applications like Line, you can switch from one chat room to another in a matter of seconds. So I am able to keep an eye on both businesses,” she says. “The key is never to do anything in a half-hearted way. Concentrate your efforts and work with defined goals and timelines.”
When she does take time off, Jirayong enjoys reading and art appreciation. She takes painting lessons from time to time and collects pieces by national artists Sawat Tantisuk and Aree Sutthipan. “I also love to travel with my beloved husband,” she smiles, referring to banker Chanant Charnchainarong to whom she has been married for 13 years. “One of our favourite activities when globetrotting is to explore museums—you can learn so much from a single visit,” she says.
In terms of what keeps her motivated every day, Jirayong gives an instant and candid reply. “Greed. Although it’s not all about the money—I’m always looking for favourable end results. And I also have personal commitments I want to maintain,” she says in a reference to several orphanages in southern Thailand, which she has funded for many years. “I think that if we have the chance to do nice things for others, we should embrace the opportunity. I personally see that as a source of pride.”
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