With an astute appreciation for the feminine and romantic, Thai fashion label Janesuda Collection has gained recognition for its intricate, lacework silhouettes over the past decade or so. Founder Janesuda Parnto is a multi-hyphenate of the highest order. As a successful actress and television host-cum fashion designer, the Bangkok local’s namesake line started in 2012 with a simple concept: creating the perfect tee shirt. Since then, Parnto has branched out from staples to beautiful bohemian statements—her pieces are fluid in form, completely wearable, yet always manage to encapsulate a sense of delicateness at the same time.
Now, like a teenager on the cusp of blossoming into a woman, the brand is ready to spread its wings and make its mark on the world. With an extremely loyal local clientele base, Parnto has her sights set on sharing the Janesuda Collection gospel to the fashion astute outside of her Thailand stronghold. The “suda” part of Parnto’s name means “graceful lady” in her native language—something that unreservedly expresses the sentiment of the label. Whimsical and floaty, a distinct Thai craftsmanship is clearly visible in Parnto’s creations.
Below, Vogue Singapore discovers how the brand came to be, why Janesuda doesn’t adhere to the conventional fashion system and how clothes can keep us in a vacation mindset.
Talk to us about your first design ‘The Signature Tee’, and why you decided to pivot away from the basics to a fully realised line.
Despite the plethora of clothing options at our fingertips, the brand actually started because of a very straightforward idea–I couldn’t seem to find a tee shirt that I really liked after scouring malls and markets (back when it was less of an online shopping world). Due to this gap in the market, it really prompted me to search for factories and fabric dealers to then make my own. After my tee shirt endeavour was received very well, I simply asked myself why not design and produce other pieces as well? Sometimes it’s the most elementary thing that can be the beginning of something special.
I didn’t hail from design schools or, for that matter, have any experience in fashion houses. The only job I had in this industry was a store clerk at a boutique when I was a teenager. I would describe the journey of the first few collections as like learning how to ride a one wheel bicycle—you may have brief moments of stability and success in your output, but overall you wobble a little and sometimes you fall. But all you can do is keep going. I also realised very quickly while delivering my first line that in creating a fashion brand, it is much more than creating a collection of beautiful designs. It is about building a world that consumers want to buy into. You have to think about the aesthetic, tone of voice, persona of the brand. I have always been involved in the production aspect of movies and television shows so transferring what I knew about the entertainment industry and a creative process of bringing a concept to life was really relevant to this as well.
On that note, as a woman with a strong public profile and busy schedule, the brand was conceived more as a passion project initially. What gave you the confidence to pursue this earnestly?
‘The Signature Tee’ and the first collection were an instant hit and people started contacting me for orders. My manager and I had to spend many a night after night packing and shipping the first pieces. This was the pivotal moment I registered mentally that I could have a legitimate business in fashion. It was so satisfying to make something that I was deeply passionate about, something that was completely my own, and something that people actually really wanted. This was when I made a transition from acting to being a full time designer and business owner. I knew that I couldn’t launch the brand if I was spending 50-60 hours a week on movie or TV sets. It was a true “something’s gotta give” juncture. In life you have to make hard choices and sacrifices if you want to be dedicated and successful in your project. I was proud of my acting career and what I had achieved in it, but it was time for me to put the same drive, creativity and energy into design.
I started my brand when social e-commerce was in its infancy in Thailand but really growing. For many years, the main revenue for the brand was from direct sales where customers would transfer into my bank account before I sent them the clothes, which seems very strange to talk about now, but that was how it was back then. In many ways, having a public profile helped build trust with our clientele.
Yes, and the way in which the retail ecosystem operates has evolved immensely. For Janesuda Collection, though, you’ve never really subscribed to traditional fashion calendars anyway have you?
The fashion industry has a format that most designers follow—you present four main collections per year with two capsules in between. Each time you create a fashion show with a similar public relations circuit and so on and so forth. There are good reasons why the industry is what it is. However, I didn’t follow that framework, partly because I was naïve and partly because I wanted to create my own path into this business. In the past decade since the brand was conceived, I’ve only conducted a fashion show once and that was when I was invited to do so during the initial years of the brand. Instead of operating in the industry cycle, I decided to instead break away from it.
“My designs are meant to be experienced in exotic locations.”
My designs are not suited for the runway, they are meant to be experienced in exotic locations. Hence for each collection we would create an intimate journey for press, friends of the brand and influencers where we discuss the designs, inspiration and build relationships with one another in intimate settings—a more immersive experience with the brand. The fashion industry is indeed competitive and you are always on a tight schedule to meet deadlines, then more deadlines. But in my eyes, the biggest competitor is yourself—how do you keep invigorated and continue to evolve season after season? If you are not inspired, it will come through in your designs.
How has your upbringing in Thailand played into your brand ethos if at all?
This is an interesting question as I haven’t looked at the brand from that perspective before. My design is a reflection of who I am and how I view the world, and I guess you can say I am a modern Thai woman with deep roots in my country and my culture. Thais are so lucky to be surrounded by beautiful nature and diverse landscapes which are always a source of inspiration. Our people are renowned for being highly skilled craftsmen and women—garment-making is a huge part of our heritage. I believe Thais have a strong outward projection of who we are into the world and we have a distinctive voice, so in many senses, my designs are reflective of this.
Janesuda Collection is undoubtedly elevated ready-to-wear, firmly rooted in a romantic sensibility. Ruffling, lace and floral accents are evident in almost all drops. Why did you decide to go with a free-spirited feminine aesthetic as your direction?
I design my clothes for holidays—there is a sensual sensibility and femininity associated with being on vacation. Your skin is sun-kissed, you have romantic moments, you’re relaxed. I wanted to encapsulate a mood of being comfortable but also feeling really pretty too. And best of all you don’t have to actually be ‘on tour’ to be in this state of mind. I hope by wearing my clothes, we can bring people closer to this.
Janesuda Collection has been a success in Thailand. How do you hope to expand into other markets?
It has been an amazing ten or so years and Janesuda Collection has been getting bigger and bigger with each season. The next phase for us is to build our presence outside of Thailand. We have our sights set on Singapore as our first expansion as we already have a strong customer base there. No matter how large and extensive the business gets we will continue to operate as a boutique brand that specialises in resort wear. We know confidently who we are as a label and what we represent. I feel throughout all these years, I have discovered my own formula to do this successfully.
“My design is a reflection of who I am and how I view the world, infused with my roots and culture.”
Armed with the beauty of hindsight, what pearls of wisdom about the fashion industry would you share with the Janesuda from 2012?
If I were to sit down with my younger self, I would tell her to consider very carefully about coming into this industry. It really is a labour of love and there will be many tears. But, the heart wants what it wants and she should follow it.