Just over a year after opening his first boutique at the Central Chidlom department store, Tawn is close to opening his first flagship TAWN C store at Gaysorn Plaza mall in Bangkok. This stand-alone store will offer him greater control over the space compared to the boutique in the department store. He will have a locking front door, the ability to play his own music, and won’t have employees of other brands traipsing through his space on their way to and from the stock room.
The design for the store was done by our designer friend Ble, who designed the boutique and our condo, too. The feel of the space will be very modern but sophisticated, with walls divided into large pixels with molding. It should be very nice.
At this point, the hope is that the store is ready to open next week. The picture above is from a week ago. The big question is whether the carpet is ready for installation on time. I suggested that Tawn should do a photo shoot with his models in hard hats in the construction zone of his store. He didn’t think that was a good idea.
Each city has its own development rhythm. Buildings are constructed then subsequently modified or added on to. Sometimes the buildings are torn down to make way for newer buildings. In some cities (think Florence, Italy) the rhythm is very slow. In other cities (Hong Kong!) one can be surprised by how staccato the rhythm is. Here in Bangkok, it is somewhat in between, though closer to Hong Kong than Florence.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that a pair of shophouses adjacent to the Thong Lo Skytrain station (the one at the mouth of our soi) were being demolished. The process took several days and was done largely by hand – laborers with sledgehammers started at the top of the building and deconstructed it, floor by floor.
Interestingly, they are not removing the entire row of identical shophouses, just these two. The demolition process exposes the intimate way in which the buildings are connected: ghosts of the back stairs can be seen on the wall of the remaining shophouse. People are apparently still living next door to the demolished buildings: laundry is hanging on the roof area and tarps have been raised to keep the dust out.
The demolition also exposed a large open space that I never knew existed behind these buildings. It looks like there may have been a small pool back there. As of yet, there are no signs announcing what is to happen with this space. The house to the left is a large private home on a lot covered with a pond and lots of old trees. Behind the open space is a large but shadowy hotel (the orange building) and to the right is an apartment complex (in green). I would guess that these shop houses probably date to around the 1960s so they are being replaced within three generations.
I look forward to seeing what development happens here. It seems too small for a condo – lord knows we have plenty of those sprouting up all around Thong Lo station! – but stranger things have happened.
While visiting the Central Chidlom department store the other day, I caught this picture of the construction progress on Central Embassy, the new 37-story high-end retail and hotel complex that is expected to open in 2013. The piles have been driven and foundation concrete had been poured. Subterranean work continues and I’d expect to see columns start to rise in the near future.
The design is eye-catching, eight stories of retail topped with a twisting tower (to house Bangkok’s first Park Hyatt hotel) meant to echo a double helix. The building is covered on the outside with glimmering diamond-shaped tiles that recall traditional Thai temple roofs. Central Embassy will connect with the existing Central Chidlom complex through the walkway on the left of the picture. A bit harder to see is a second walkway, in the center-right of the picture, which will connect to the Ploenchit BTS Skytrain station.
Here’s an aerial view that I annotated to help orient you:
The complex is built on land bought from the British Embassy. As one of the last undeveloped properties in the very pricey Withayu-Ploenchit area, the sale brought in hefty proceeds. In a bit of a kerfuffle, many locals were incensed that the British government profitted so handsomely from the sale of land that was gifted from the Thai government many generations ago. Finally, the Thai government clarified that the land had been given to the British government and was theirs to do with as they wished.
I suppose you could (easily) argue that the last thing we need is another mall and another hotel. No argument from me. That said, I like that we’re seeing continued infill development around transit lines. This increased density is preferable to continued sprawl. Not that the infill is somehow eliminating the sprawl, but you get the idea. Also, the design of this building is unique and contributes to Bangkok’s continued ascent from an architectural backwater to a city with an interesting skyline.
At one point in time, mine was the exciting life filled with ever-changing adventures and Tawn was the one who went to the office every day, living a life of nine to five drudgery. Nowadays, as he is moving towards his dream of being a fashion designer, his life is the eventful one and I’m fading to a quiet support role. The latest big event was a photo shoot of the first collection on his own label, Tawn C, to create a “look book.”
As I understand it, a look book doesn’t necessarily have to display every outfit in the collection. Instead, it is meant to convey the overall feel of the collection, to tell the “story” of the woman for whom the collection was designed. Tawn will use the look book to pitch his collection to prospective vendors including some of the large department stores here in Bangkok.
Tawn called in a half-dozen people with whom he has worked on other events, assembling a talented but reasonably priced team to assist with styling, make-up, and hair. Our “annex” – the studio unit adjacent to our main condo, was turned into the backstage area. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of work I could do other than to prepare the snacks to keep the talent satisfied.
The setting for the photo shoot was out unit, which not only saved money but also matched the style of Tawn’s collection. Above, photographer Siwanat Phangbunkumlarp directs the models. The model on the left is a Russian with whom Tawn worked at his student fashion show. The model on the right is Thai-German and was added later when the Russian woman’s twin sister was no longer available to do the shoot.
Khun Siwanat did a very detailed job, having scouted the location in advance, discussed the overall themes with Tawn, and plotted the look and feel of different shots. It ultimately took something like 10 hours to shoot the entire sequence, but the results were very nice. Here are some of my favorite shots. These are pre touch-up, as the versions that Tawn will use on his website underwent modest Photoshopping.
Stay tuned for more updates on the adventures here in Bangkok as Tawn pursues his dreams and Chris supports him.
As I had mentioned in a previous entry, Tawn had the good fortune to be invited by Khun Kai, owner of Thailand’s longest running couture house, to design the Spring/Summer 2012 collection for his streetwear label, K and I. After nearly a month of frantic work, the 48 looks were presented on Saturday October 7 at Bangkok International Couture Fashion Week, sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar.
Behind the scenes, Tawn adjusts the fit of one of the finale dresses on his model. A group shot of his models, one of whom used to be the tenant of the second condo we now own. Below are the 48 looks, roughly in the order in which they appeared on the runway. The only comment I’ll provide in advance is that Tawn designed the outfits, but collaborated with Khun Kai on the selection of fabrics (Kai does a lot of lace).
Tawn walks down the runway with a model who is wearing his final look, a beautiful lace dress with body suit. K and I’s mother brand, Kai, is famous for its elegant lace and custom bridal gowns.
Afterwards, Tawn stopped for interviews with several journalists. I’m looking forward to the next round of magazines to see what the critics have to say about his collection. The next step is to translate these designs into actual rack-ready garments. At the same time, Tawn is finalizing his first collection of his eponymous brand, Tawn C. The photo shoot is Monday and hopefully those will be ready for production soon, too.
It was less than a year and a half ago when Tawn decided to go part-time with his job in Public Relations and follow his passion, starting with attending fashion design classes. He has had some amazing breaks and I’m proud, too, of all the hard work he has put into this. Without a doubt, he has much more passion for this line of work!
Since we returned from our vacation to Los Angeles this past June, Tawn has been in the process of designing and producing his initial collection of women’s wear. It has been a challenge and an adventure as he locates vendors, deals with problems anticipated and unanticipated, and learns about how a fashion business is run.
They say that success is a combination of talent, lots of hard work, and a dose of good luck. Right now, we’re at a point on the road to Tawn’s dream of being a successful fashion designer where those three factors are coming together. It is a point that, years from now, we may look back on as the critical break that altered the course of his career.
A month ago, Tawn had the opportunity to meet Khun Kai, the man who established the first haute couture brand in Thailand some forty years ago. He continues to produce elegant dresses and wedding gowns that are highly sought-after. While helping a friend shop for her wedding gown, Tawn introduced himself to Khun Kai and inquired if he might consider taking Tawn as an intern. Initially, Khun Kai said he was not interested in having an intern.
A week later, though, Tawn received a call and was invited to Khun Kai’s studio. Starting the next day, Tawn listened as Khun Kai shared his insights on the fashion industry in Thailand and the challenges of running your own design studio. The day after that, Khun Kai explained that he was looking for a designer to help produce the Spring/Summer 2012 collection for “k and i”, Kai’s streetwear brand. Introduced two seasons ago, k and i has yet to establish a solid identity and find its market.
Out of the blue, Khun Kai asked Tawn to design that Spring/Summer collection for k and i. Returning home that evening, Tawn was understandably excited and a little stressed by the challenge. He worked late into the night, creating a mood board to capture his overall design inspirations for the collection and then sketched 48 rough looks to articulate how he thought k and i could best fit into the market.
With some feedback, Khun Kai approved the looks and after he and Tawn chose various fabrics, his in-house team of seamstresses began preparing prototypes.
The collection will show, along with Khun Kai’s “Kai” couture line, October 8 at Bangkok International Couture Fashion Week, sponsored by Harper’s Bazaar magazine. This is a particular honor as only four other brands will be featured, all of whom are well-established here in Thailand. As Tawn explained, these are brands he shopped when he was growing up, so to appear on the same stage as them is a rare privilege.
As you can imagine, Tawn is honored, excited, and quite anxious right now. While 48 looks have been completed, he continues to edit and make adjustments and is now working with stylists to help produce the look and the feel of the show. As for me, I receive a near-daily update on the experiences of working with a legend and the interesting dynamics that entails.
Of course, I’m very proud of Tawn, thankful that he has be given this opportunity, and look forward to sharing the collection with you in the near future.
After a year of studying fashion design at Accademia Italiana, Tawn had his first fashion show Saturday night. Here’s a look at this exciting evening.
Some of our friends who made it to the show. (From left: Per, Ko, Linda, Tawn, Fluck, and Bim) We were blessed to have more than a dozen friends show up to lend their support, with many others who sent their regards and best wishes.
Here’s a 3-minute video summarizing the evening.
The assignment for the students was to take their inspiration from Italy, a fitting assignment given the Italian roots of the school. Tawn thought about his last visit to Italy and a trip he took to Siena. Inspired by the city and the Piazza del Campo, the fan-shaped public plaza at the heart of Siena, Tawn interpreted this shape into the skirt and the pleats which appear throughout his collection.
He used body suits with all the outfits, interpreted for women and covered in different ways to transform the looks while maintaining a cohesive theme. This being a spring/summer collection, Tawn chose lighter fabrics, primarily grey, black, and nude color silk chiffon for the outer garments with black crepe for the body suits. There is significant bead work on many pieces which give the appearance of a subtle pattern.
The story behind Tawn’s collection is of women gardening. Each model carries props that convey this story.
Look #1: Tawn’s first look is a one-shoulder body suit covered with a gauzy silk chiffon long skirt. The hem of the skirt is cut in a train with the back longer than the front.
Look #2: The body suit from the first look evolves into short pants evocative of 1950s swim wear. The blouse features a sophisticated bow and detailed hand-sewn bead work as well as black piping on the cuffs and the bow. All four models wore these custom-designed pleated ankle cuffs with black velvet ribbon.
Look #3: An elegant hybrid of evening gown and night gown featuring pleated multi-tier skirt with black piping worn with a simple black corset body suit.
Look #4: This final look (which the picture does not do justice to) is a sleeveless nude color body suit with a rear black chiffon bow and an accompanying pencil skirt. The detailed hand-sewn bead work subtly decorates the skirt.
Tawn, fellow students, and their models pose with the director of the school for a group photo.
After the show, Tawn with his proud husband.
We returned home to a low key evening, letting all our friends head their own way and declining invitations to celebrate. Dinner was Homemade chicken and garbanzo bean enchiladas with a mole poblano sauce and a bottle of Moet Chandon champagne.
After a very long past few weeks as The Annex (as we call the adjacent condo unit which we use as an office and work room) has turned into a whirlwind of fabric, thread, accessories, and needles, the post-show stillness is eerie. The sudden lack of adrenaline coursing through our veins is like going over a cliff. Nice to have a calm and quiet Sunday afterwards with nothing to worry about.
Oh, and in case you are interested, here are some of the outfits shown by Tawn’s classmates:
It’s Saturday afternoon here in Bangkok and Tawn’s first fashion show, in which he’s participating after only two semesters of studying fashion design – begins in less than three hours. I’ve spent a good portion of the day at Paragon mall, helping him get everything loaded in and documenting the process in the hopes that years from now where he’s a famous designer and they need to do a retrospective of his work, I’ll have some pictures they can use.
Just returned home to freshen up a bit before heading back to take pictures and video of the show. Here are some sneak peak behind the scenes photos:
Tawn organizes outfits as models (mostly Russian) chat.
Lots of “hurry up and wait” during the rehearsals.
After final dress rehearsal there is chaos backstage as designers make adjustments. Here, Tawn, assisted by another student, adds padding to the model’s shoes so they fit better.
Pictures and video in the next day or so. Stay tuned!
During a March visit to Singapore, I decided to ride the subway out to the nether reaches of the island to visit the light rail lines. Singapore has three light rail lines that form four loops connecting to stations in the rail-based public transit network. They were built with the express purpose of serving master-planned housing estates, giving residents a door-to-door rail service that allowed them to get around without increasing road-based traffic.
The light rail itself is clean and efficient, with the automated cars running regularly on elevated tracks that weave between housing towers. Below is a video that overviews my experience on the system, including a startling discovery I made about how technology is used to solve a perhaps unforseen privacy problem.
Matters of urban planning and design have always interested me and for a short while in university I was an urban planning major. Examples of transit-oriented land use, like the developments that surround the light rail lines in Singapore, make me think about ways that similar lessons could be applied in the United States.
A country with a plentitude of land, since World War II development in the US has been oriented towards the automobile, resulting in more and more sprawl and fewer and fewer neighborhoods where one can walk from home to anywhere useful. With rising fuel prices and ever-increasing congestion on the roads, it amazes me that there has been continued resistance not only to public transit, but transit-oriented development.
There are a few examples in the United States of what is sometimes called “New Urbanism”, a design philosophy that promotes more walkable and transit-friendly neighborhoods that include mixed use buildings – shops, businesses, and residences in the same general area. Not unlike traditional older neighborhoods in an urban environment, there are small shops on the main streets, some apartments overhead or in the surrounding blocks, and then single-family dwellings set further back. Orenco Station, a neighborhood in the Portland, OR area is a good example of this type of planning.
(Comparing the “suburban sprawl” photo earlier in this entry with the master plan for Orenco Station, you’ll notice that suburbia has a lot of dead-end streets, which means there’s always a long way to go to get out of the neighborhood.)
Some defining elements of this new style of development include:
The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.
Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly ¼ mile or 1,320 feet (0.4 km).
There are a variety of dwelling types — usually houses, rowhouses, and apartments — so that younger and older people, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.
At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home. There are small playgrounds accessible to every dwelling — not more than a tenth of a mile away.
Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination. The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.
As I look at these design elements, I see of list of things that have a whole lot of “pros” and very few, if any, “cons”. While the US will never go the route of Singaporean style land use – there’s no comparable acquiesence to the wisdom of the government, for starters – it does seem that a more comprehensive approach to land use would benefit the United States and our quality of life in the decades to come.
In early February I shared 14 designs I had created for “air mail” stamps and stickers. Since I’m a fan of letter writing, I thought it would be fun to have some diversity in terms of how I indicate that my letters and postcards should travel first class air mail.
You were all very generous in providing your feedback and after taking your feedback to heart, I selected two designs to turn into rubber stamps and four designs to turn into stickers.
The marks of the rubber stamps (obviously)
And the stickers. The quality of the printing is pretty poor. They just used adhesive paper run through a color laser printer. But it is a good first batch and I’ll seek out a higher-quality printer in the future. Considering that I now have something like 400 stickers, that won’t be anytime soon!
Now, as to the topic of letter writing, just a reminder that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. If you haven’t used this low tech way of staying in touch in a while, why not make it a point to sit down a write a few letters to friends and loved ones?