Shifting gear for fashion, a young designer has followed his passion and fulfilled his dream and destiny
The veneer of glamorous fashion world lures fashionistas with the ever-changing seasons of beautiful clothes and models but much goes on behind the scene. Fashion labels and fashion designers’ lives must endure through the merry-go-round cycles with persistence, hard work and unwavering passion. Tawn Chatchavalvong, a Bangkok-based fashion designer, has experienced this test of time by following his passion and fulfilling his destiny.
Although majoring in Political Science, Tawn didn’t follow his father’s footsteps in working for the government. He evokes, “When I studied in San Francisco, I went to visit my friends in New York and they are artists, designers, and filmmakers. They opened my perspectives but with consideration, fashion schools weren’t for me then.”
Tawn explains, “My life is about following up. Fortunately, after working in Public Relations for a decade, I switched to fashion design. I was torn between the two. So I worked part-time and studied at Accadamia Italiana for half of the week. During my first year, my teacher told me to produce a collection to show with the graduating students. When my clothes were modelled on the catwalk, my instinct told me that this was my destiny. I decided to drop out and made up for the lost time.”
Like a fairy tale, Tawn’s fairy godmother came in a guise of Thailand’s most legendary couturier, Somchai Keawthong or Kai. Tawn delightfully recalls, “I accompanied my friend who had her wedding gown custom-made by P Kai. I proposed to work for him and tried to show my business acumen and maturity. At first he refused but after two weeks, I was called in to design Kai’s diffusion brand, K&I. Without any sleep, I prepared the mood board and sketches of 48 looks for the next day. P Kai promptly approved and I worked in his atelier for a year. That was the best working experience I could ever have. I observed how he works and had opportunities to meet fashion editors and celebrities. This collection was featured at Bangkok International Couture Fashion Week and sold well but the brand folded afterwards. That was my first big break.”
With his family’s financial backing, Tawn founded TAWN C. He enthuses, “I started 10 years too late but I want it to survive and succeed. Time is of essence and I want good business endorsers with good buyers, media exposure, and stylish clientele. I’m proud to have beautiful retail spaces but the operation costs can be too high. I prefer using my creativity solving design and production problems to handling retail issues. So I shifted the strategy and trimmed out what’s unnecessary. I have built my brand with passion and dream and it has become my life and career, not a playground.”
Tawn’s passion for travel and taste for European style inspires and fuels him. He muses, “I enjoy my routine but I also like to observe. I have my ‘uniform’ when I get dressed daily. I don’t focus on changing my own style. TAWN C. stands for timeless elegance but the mood and tone evolve from one collection to another. Our DNA lies in high quality materials, refined craftsmanship, and attention to detail. I let my design process happen naturally. It begins with a story, then the shape and palette, and the technical aspect comes at the end. The material fair in Milan provides predictions on trends and influences but I also research and incorporate my signature into the collection. I like modernizing silhouettes and lines, using bold and bright colours, mixing motifs and patterns, and adding some elements. I work with five teams of seamstresses from different expertise: ready-to-wear, masculine tailoring, intricate lacing, fine embroidery and evening gowns with corsets and draping. I’m afraid that the crafts of creating these sumptuous gowns will be gone because of fewer talents. They are labour-intensive and have fewer demands here.”
Tawn clarifies, “In my design philosophy, I empower women’s individuality. My clients are sophisticated women in their late 20s and upward, who like unique yet simple style with quality and have special occasions to attend. I like coming to the boutique during weekends and listen to their opinions. I tried to understand their needs to improve my collections. I have to curb my ego to balance between ideas and business.”
Tawn’s fruits of labour have brought him accolades. In 2016 Tawn received a Pyramid of Excellence Award from his alma mater Accademia Italiana in Florence, a recognition award giving to art, fashion, and design people with strength in creative labours. After fashion icons such as Vivienne Westwood, Carla Fendi, and Robert Capucci, Tawn is the first Thai designer to receive the award.
He concludes, “Three years ago I premiered Maison TAWN C. at Paris Fashion Week and was surprised by good receptions. Thanks to European lifestyles, luxurious evening gowns sell better than ready-to-wear. With modern and clean lines, I tone down the ‘jolie madame’ look. We are in the dress-down era and real life is not a runway. I’m pleased that my brand is now distributed in Paris, New York, Kuwait, Saint Petersburg, and expanding to China’s e-commerce market after a Shanghai Fashion Week. But I feel honoured when noticing an ordinary woman in my clothes because they know my style without knowing me.”