In 2016, Thakoon Panichgul was one of the first runway designers to step away from traditional department store wholesale channels to make his original eponymous brand, Thakoon, fully DTC.
It was a forward-thinking move for Panichgul, who relaunched their brand in 2019 with the same business model. It helped keep the brand afloat through the pandemic. But now that the brand is established, he said he’s ready to start working with retailers again.
Panichgul said Monday at the Glossy E-Commerce Forum in New York that the problem with initial collaboration with retailers is twofold. First, they often required a large number of styles, so he developed 200 different pieces per season to meet their needs. Second, and somewhat contradictingly, they seemed to want a lot of the same things.
“Often the big retailers would see a season of yours and be like, ‘Oh, they make a great printed dress.’ But then you get stuck, ‘Do more printed dresses,'” Panichgul said. “Two seasons later you might be over printed dresses but the stores won’t let you stop. It’s good that they developed a client for you, but bad because you’re stuck.”
Now that his brand is stable through DTC sales, Panichgul said the time is finally right to re-enter a select number of retail partnerships. He currently has a partnership with Nordstrom that began in 2021 and is interested in expanding to a select few specialty retailers.
The wholesale orders he places with these partners are much smaller than they used to be. Nordstrom, for example, only sells 25 different Thakoon pieces. Panichgul said he’s interested in developing collections of around 50 pieces. Currently, about 80 styles are available in Thakoon online direct store.
“We’re getting back on board with Nordstrom and specialty stores across the country. But the back end looks different,” he said. “It’s a mix of wholesale and dropship, and there are a lot fewer parts.”
Panichgul has also worked with Rent the Runway. Instead of sending RTR an order of standard Thakoon parts, the brand creates separate parts that are offered specifically for RTR under the Thakoon Collective name. Panichgul said this agreement allows him to design pieces specifically for rental that may not work in his core collection.
“When they first approached me, I wasn’t doing that many imaginative pieces,” Panichgul said. “They saw the opportunity there and so did I. I started exploring these floral, fanciful pieces, the kind that people might not want to buy but would rent for a one-off occasion. It allowed me to step off the catwalk a bit and there was already a consumer for it.”
Panichgul said DTC is still the best foundation for the brand, but new ways of negotiating wholesale partnerships allow him to sell at retail without as much pressure.
“DTC today doesn’t mean you can’t delve into other parts of retail,” Panichgul said.