For longer than she can remember Tanunya Thanakitamnuay Jiramaneekul wanted to become an artist, and in her youth she would experiment with oil paintings in the realism and abstract forms. Her love for the arts runs in the family—mother Mayurachat was also an avid young painter with ambitions for making a career of it. “She used to tell me how I was reminiscent of her when she was a teenager,” smiles the 29-year-old. Her childhood passion led Tanunya to New York University where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. But it was while she was in the US that she started to doubt her choice of career path. “My classmates were incredibly expressive—be it through their hairstyles or the way they dressed—but I preferred staying in my comfort zone and being less eccentric.”
Tanunya began to feel that there was a rational side to her that had perhaps been overshadowed by the creative, and so to explore her other self and potential fortes she decided to intern with 3.1 Phillip Lim’s sales team. “The six-month internship really opened my eyes as to what goes on in New York’s fashion industry,” she tells us. “I experienced my first New York Fashion Week and the bustling week after when the department stores’ sales teams would come in to place orders.” With a newfound interest in fashion management, she enrolled in a short course at the Big Apple’s Fashion Institute of Technology.
As the middle child of Piya Thanakitamnuay of fashion retailer Reno, which owns the AIIZ brand, one would think Tanunya had her walk of life all planned out—towards the family business. “In fact, my parents gave me the freedom to make my own choices and pursue my own path,” she says. But accompanying her father on AIIZ store visits from a young age, she naturally formed a sentimental attachment to the brand. “AIIZ and I grew up together, and I believe it played a huge role in making me who I am today as a person. It is only natural for me to have a strong desire to increase its stature and bring it more success.”
Now overseeing AIIZ’s design and marketing department as the product development manager, Tanunya tells us that joining the family business was anything but plain sailing. “I wanted to earn acceptance from everyone as a regular employee—as myself, not as the daughter of the CEO. So it was important for me to show my abilities to those above and below me,” she explains. Today, it is the different set of challenges she faces that make her love her job. “There’s a new problem for me to solve almost every day,” she laughs. “But that makes everything fun—it keeps me going and motivated.”
With around 80 stand-alone stores and more than 400 distribution points at department stores nationwide, Tanunya believes that they have found the right business model for AIIZ. “The brand is all about quality clothing and products that come with affordable price tags. While others may not be doing so well, we have experienced solid growth this year and have been able to compete well with other international brands in the market,” she says. With the launch of new lines—athleisure wear AIIZ Silver, denim range AIIZ Blue and loungewear AIIZ Grey—she is excited about seeing the brand more complete and hopes to strengthen its presence abroad.
A fashionista in her own right, Tanunya tells us she usually dresses according to the day’s mood, “But it will usually be a mix of contrasts, such as a feminine dress paired with sneakers or a sumptuous blazer with sandals.” One of her favourite designers is Jonathan Anderson. “I especially adore how he rebranded Loewe. He foresaw how there would be less emphasis on luxury and more on culture. And I think that’s quite perceptive and inspiring,” she says. “People no longer want to be seen as luxurious or glamorous, but rather as crafted and reflective of their roots and heritage.”
The society belle recently tied the knot with her long-time beau Kongpat Jiramaneekul, vice president at ST Diamond and ST Dimension. “He’s a friend of my brother, Tarin, and there was one summer when I kept seeing him at parties or over at our house. We started hanging out together—and that was the beginning of the long phone conversations,” she smiles. How did her brother take it? “He told me that as it was Kongpat, he would approve.” But when Kongpat talked to Tarin about dating Tanunya, her brother told him it simply wasn’t on. “We continued seeing each other nonetheless, but it took my (then) boyfriend a while to realise that my brother had been joking,” she laughs.
So how did Kongpat win her heart? Tanunya explains that it was the consistency he had shown her throughout their longdistance relationship when one was studying in New York and the other in London. “And he’s still the same genuine, warm and optimistic person,” she says. After dating for six years, Kongpat arranged a surprise proposal during a trip to Koh Samui. Their wedding celebrations, held last November, were among the most stunning parties of the year—imagine a barley rice field at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and a laid-back, yet enchanting garden party at Kirimaya Khao Yai.
What is life after marriage like? “Just waking up each morning and having him by my side makes me feel blessed. You feel like you have a best friend who you can share memories with, who will be there for you when you’re sad and who will cry happy tears with you,” she smiles. Yet to go on their honeymoon, they are booked for Africa in September. “It is definitely one of those destinations you can’t go to with toddlers. We’re going to try to be as adventurous as we can during this trip before we map out our next chapter.”
The young executive likes to spend her days off unwinding with loved ones. Golf has become a new family activity and she usually plays on Sundays with her father, brother and husband. She also enjoys visiting museums and galleries and maintains an abiding love for travel. “Especially when you’ve been working hard, it is so rewarding to take some time off to really slow down and enjoy the moment. Going somewhere new can be incredibly enriching and inspiring, as you get to explore different cultures and vibes,” she says.
Tanunya’s top priorities in life are her family and friends. “I believe that, together, they are your best support system. They are where you can find love and warmth—and those are really the survival prerequisites for a being human,” she says. Good health is also something she values greatly. “In a perfect world, I would like everyone around me to be healthy.” What kind of woman does she aspire to become? “I would definitely like to engage in more social causes, particularly with children and animals. But on a personal level, I would like to become an excellent mother and a strong businesswoman at the same time, which is harder than most can imagine.”
To see more Tanunya, watch this darling behind-the-scenes video of her cover shoot below: