Suits You Two: Fashionistas Who Like Pairing Up
1/4 Niti Sawangwatthanaphaibun and Adisai Kunjara na Ayudhya
Digital marketing consultant Niti Sawangwatthanaphaibun and partner Adisai Kunjara na Ayudhya, who owns state enterprise consulting firm Win Together, are said to lead two lives: the first as hard-working career professionals, the second as dedicated followers of fashion and arbiters of styles ranging from the fabulously flamboyant to the coolly staid.
Adisai, also known as Au, smiles as he explains his entrée to the world of haute couture. “It was simple enough. I was a customer—a very enthusiastic one—and once I had reached a certain level of spending I began to receive invitations to attend fashion weeks.” Niti, or Bass as he prefers, started out in a similar way but admits to being less clued in to couture in the early days. “I had a basic interest in fashion but it wasn’t until I got to know Au that I really caught the bug. He wanted to get to the DNA of the clothes, their design and manufacture, and I would often catch him researching fashion and styles in his own time.” As a result, a least part of the couple’s weekend is usually given over to exploring some facet of the fashion world, be it searching for an example of a new trend or simply attending a new boutique opening.
Au laughs, “I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to apparel and because of the opportunities to attend fashion weeks abroad I quickly graduated from ready-to-wear stuff to haute couture. I love the process of being measured and fitted for hand-made garments. It made me realise the importance of quality, which is why I began collecting limited edition and one-of-a-kind pieces. I particularly admire clothes by Givenchy, Dior and Versace.”
The pair have a rule when it comes to dressing for parties and events—if invited as a couple they will try to match outfits, but individual invitations are carte blanche to go it alone with whatever takes their fancy. “We end up spending hours deliberating over what to wear,” Bass giggles. “Five or six outfits may get tried on. I think my closet is quite large but it’s nothing compared to Au’s. He has literally thousands of unique pieces in his.”
One of the highlights of their trips to Milan, London and Paris for fashion shows and events is the chance to meet the designers themselves. “We have chatted with Kim Jones in Paris, Miuccia Prada in Milan and many more,” says Bass. Conversations with renowned designers never get old for Au. “In every season there are new concepts for collections and you’d be amazed at complicated industry politics involved in creating them. It’s a juggling act for the brands to know what themes and looks to emphasise. I find it fascinating.”
Despite having half a foot in the rarefied world of fashion movers and shakers, Bass and Au have never given thought to trying their hand at their own designs. “We’re consumers who appreciate the art. In any case,” laughs Au, “I’m no good at drawing and I already have a career that I love. No, fashion will most likely remain a passionate indulgence.”
2/4 Araya Kanchanapongkula and Pintuporn Needham
Araya Kanchanapongkula and Pintuporn Needham have known each other for as long as they can remember, often attending events together and always looking fashionable wherever they go. Yet their approaches to fashion are as different as the sun and the moon. The former employs the help of her middle son—an ardent fashion enthusiast—as her personal stylist, while the latter is eclectic in her tastes and just as adept at creating ensembles out of items from flea markets as much as from top-end shopping malls.
Classically trained pianist Pintuporn, or Aey, cites her mother Puengchit Sawamiphakdi as a fashion influence. “She was always particular in the way she looked and turned heads wherever she went.” Because of her mother Aey grew to appreciate fine clothes, jewellery and shoes. “What my mother knew and I have come to learn is that dressing up is about much more than your look. It’s about what makes you feel good—how you dress affects your mood and subsequently the way you think and act. Which is why these days I tend to wear what I like, outfits that are comfortable and functional, and hang whatever anyone else thinks,” she laughs.
As for Araya, there is simple happiness in dressing up. “I was into fashion around 40 years ago. I’ve always been into it in fact,” says the 71-year-old business owner. “These days my main job is to take care of myself and the way I dress is definitely a big part of that.” She is helped in her sartorial quest by son Kirati, who graduated from the renowned Central Saint Martin’s design college in London. Araya smiles when she says, “Kirati arranges all my clothes for me, every day. He’ll bring me a printed sheet of potential outfits, ensembles to suit whatever I’m doing that day, and suggest various pieces for different occasions. He knows my collection back to front.”
These days my main job is to take care of myself and the way I dress is definitely a big part of that.
— Araya Kanchanapongkula
Araya and Aey met almost 20 years ago through a mutual friend. After that first meeting they began to bump into each other more frequently at society events. “We gravitated together partly because our tastes are similar. We also love to talk and we understand each other well,” says Araya, adding, “Aey lives close to me too, so we often go out to eat together or accompany each other on shopping excursions whenever she is in town.”
The comment prompts the pair to reminisce about their first serious fashion purchase. Aey says, “When I was 20 I saw a pair of Charles Jourdan shoes designed by Christian Louboutin in the window of a store on Brompton Road in London. At the time Louboutin was a designer for Jourdan. But on my student budget the price for the shoes seemed heartbreakingly high, so I worked for them. I went to audition for a singing role, got it and rewarded myself with the shoes. I had a pair of Louboutin’s before he even had his own brand!” Araya laughs, “My first purchase seems dull by comparison. It was a Hermes shirt with the signature ribbon and logo on it. I still have it and often wear it. I was a convent school girl and I have memories of running to the library to read the latest edition of Seventeen so I could scope out the new European looks.” She often committed the styles she saw to memory and would buy fabric to have them run up. “It was a different time,” she sighs, “a better time back when fashion and the brands had much more charm.”
Related: A Look Back At Tatler Thailand's Most Stylish Women Throughout A Decade
3/4 Tharinee and Porngarun Tangchaiyawong
Mother and son duo Tharinee, or Aom, and Porngarun, or Gui-Chai, Tangchaiyawong are relative newcomers to Thailand’s fashion scene. Both share a love of couture that has been passed down from Aom’s mother and Gui-Chai’s father respectively. “My mother liked to dress up and would dress me up too,” the 41-year-old explains, expanding with a laugh, “But it wasn’t always fun because she imposed her tastes, which were very good but not necessarily what I wanted to wear! As I got older and more independent clothes-wise, I started to experiment with mixing and match styles. That was much more fun.”
With her 12-year-old son growing into fashion, Aom sees similarities in the development of his interest with her own. “His was probably piqued by his father, Watthanachai, who is an avid collector of clothes. When invited to parties or events, he would often ask if our son could come along, at least for the first couple of hours. So Gui-Chai absorbed our fashion talk and saw our dressing habits up close,” she chuckles. “He used to wear whatever we bought him, but now he’s begun to cultivate his own tastes and likes.”
It comes as no surprise when the young man, who is currently in Year 8 at Bangkok Pattana School says, “I love casual styles and streetwear, especially brands like Off-White, but I also like clothes by Gucci and Louis Vuitton.” Mum interjects, “His father’s influence again…he collects sneakers and now Gui-Chai has over 30 pairs of his own. Our love for Louis Vuitton was sort of inherited from my mother. We are a modern family and we like to present a modern elegant look.”
Like Bass and Au, the Tangchaiyawongs’ collective love of clothes has also led to them being invited to international fashion week events but as Aom explains, so far they haven’t attended because of clashes with Gui-Chai’s schooling. “The timings haven’t been right and we wouldn’t want to leave him in Thailand alone. If we go abroad, we go together.” There were plans to attend a Burberry fashion event in Hong Kong last year, but due to the protests there the event was cancelled.
With a plethora of clothes to choose from, Gui-Chai holds his own when it comes to what to wear. “Mum will tell me the theme of an event or the preferred style and I will choose my outfit alone,” says the young fashionista, who is also a keen footballer. Does he ever wear his favourite brands to school? “Only hats, shoes and socks,” he smiles craftily. “I don’t want my clothes to become dirty and I don’t want to get into trouble for wearing non-uniform pieces.”
4/4 Siriyos Devahasdin na Ayudhya and Pattharapol Puengboonpra
Known for his flamboyance when it comes to dress, Pattharapol Puengboonpra, or Peepy, arrives for our interview with his personal muse and inspiration Siriyos Devahasdin na Ayudhya. “I have known her since she worked at Bulgari, maybe around 20 years ago, when I was running Hi! Magazine,” he says. “She and style icon Ann Intira Thanavisuth have been instrumental in pushing me to find myself and my style, and I look up to them like sisters.”
Siriyos, or Pueng, who has enjoyed a long and successful career in public relations with companies including Bulgari and Lotus Arts de Vivre, smiles. “In terms of fashion, women are all influenced to some degree by their mothers. Mine loved jewellery and would drag me round jewellery store after jewellery store when I was young. The funny thing was, while I got bored and frustrated having to watch and wait, I actually learned quite a bit because mum would pore over details and discuss them with me too. I became quite good at examining a piece and even considered studying at the Gemological Institute of America.”
Peepy loved growing up watching mother Lee dress up to prepare for work. “Back when she used to take me to school, even the teachers would praise her style. It really motivated me and I took everything in from her: her love of fashion, beauty, lifestyle…everything.” Once he graduated from university, he took on the running of Hi! Magazine as its owner and editor-in-chief. “And of course, that brought me even closer to fashion and couture circles.”
Everyone has their fashion rights and wrongs and before I admit I wasn’t very good at dressing up.
— Pattharapol Puengboonpra
These days Peepy says he can’t leave home without an accessory. “At least with my glasses or a bag, please!” At events he becomes fully unleashed. “I like to have fun with the theme so I make sure I accessorise from head to toe.” It wasn’t always like that though. “Everyone has their fashion rights and wrongs and before I met Pueng and Ann, I admit I wasn’t very good at dressing up. I used to follow the trends but didn’t really have my own style. Pueng and Ann have taught me that sometimes being selectively extravagant can be fun. They have definitely given me a more considered approach to style.”
Pueng and Peepy are often seen at the most exclusive events—in the front row at fashion shows and at the high tables of the top soirees and parties. “Because of the times there hasn’t been as much going on. In any case, I had reached the point where I would only attend an event if I was close to the host. I had to do that because it is exhausting putting together the outfits,” Peepy laughs. The pair favour Gucci, Chanel and Givenchy when they do have to match up. Peepy smiles mischievously, “You know what, I think we ought to try street styles next—bright and colourful from head to toe with huge sneakers and a belt bag strapped across the waist.” Pueng thinks about this and then laughs, “It’s Givenchy street wear for me or nothing!”
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- Photography Chaiwat Kangsamrith