Sopana Lavichant On The Brand Name Game
Established 16 years ago, leading fashion behemoth Pacifica Group distributes a host of top brands including Coach, Kenneth Cole, Coccinelle, Etro, Max Mara, Shanghai Tang, Camper, Keds, American Eagle and Nyx cosmetics, and working alongside her husband Opras, who founded the company, it’s Sopana Lavichant’s job to look after them all.
The couple, who met in the US when Chulalongkorn graduate Sopana went to study at UC Berkeley where Opras was also a student, married in 2004 but it wasn’t until 2013 that she joined him at Pacifica Group as marketing director. “The company had been going for years by then, during which time I’d helped out with my parents’ textile and property businesses and given birth to our three children, Matthew, Kaitlyn and Nate,” the 46 year-old says. “While Coach may have been the brand that kick-started Pacifica, it was Coccinelle that opened the doors to the world of fashion retail for me. It wasn’t until my youngest child was four years old that I started travelling with Opras when he went on business trips and on one such trip to Italy we visited a Coccinelle showroom. I loved the clothes, the ethos behind the brand, and it sparked my interest in fashion retail and prompted my becoming involved with Pacifica.”
Today, as the company’s chief managing officer, Sopana is in charge of overseeing the direction and marketing plans of the brands under Pacifica. “It is my job to identify how our various brands are distinct from others in what is a very competitive market and to convey that nicheness. It requires me to be part retail guru and part diplomat because one of the challenges in our business is filling the culture gap between the two worlds,” she explains. “For example, international brands looking at emerging markets in Southeast Asia cannot simply apply a one-size-fits-all business model, thinking we are all the same. I’ve had my fair share of disagreements with international labels on how to market brands here. Sometimes I have to convince our clients that certain campaigns, while beautiful visually, won’t always work in the Thai market.”
Another challenge she faces is the issue of how to make the most of the growing trend in online retail. “People today no longer indulge in three or four hours of shopping at a mall. Online shopping is booming but there’s still plenty of work to be done with platforms in Thailand, be they websites or applications.” Currently, for the Pacifica Group, it’s about implementing diversity, Sopana adds. “How we cope with all these changes is by trying to diversify in terms of product categories. We distribute luxury, medium-luxury and mass brands and deal with ready-to-wear, bags, shoes, accessories and cosmetics, and we are always looking for new brands to add to our portfolio.”
In terms of her personal style Sopana goes for neat tailoring, well-made outfits that have longevity. “Take Max Mara. Their designs seem so timeless, which is great because it becomes exhausting chasing trends, believe me!” she laughs, adding, “I like street fashion too, but I’m wary of falling into the trap of dressing in a style that does not suit me. I shouldn’t worry though—my children, who are all under 14, are great sartorial critics and probably wouldn’t let me out of the house in anything too de trop fashion-wise!”
More society profiles: MR Chalermchatri Yukol On The Importance Of Quality Content