A Fashion Star’s Guide to Creative Bangkok
Thai design icon Vatanika, who has dressed the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Gigi Hadid, reveals the city’s stylish side.
Name-drop Vatanika Patamasingh at any fashion-related event in Thailand, and odds are industry insiders will give you an excited, approving look. The Bangkok-born designer is the country’s favorite style icon (just take a look at her social media following), a darling among sartorially-savvy urbanites, and as of 2018 the mononymous star of her own reality TV show, This is Me Vatanika.
Anyone who’s anyone in Thailand knows her, admires her, and possibly wants to be her.
Or at least dress in her namesake brand, which she founded in 2011 after graduating from Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion, and turned into one of the labels that most define contemporary Thai fashion today.
The appeal isn’t just confined to Thailand: From Gigi Hadid to Hailey Bieber, Miranda Kerr, and Jennifer Lopez, a slew of international celebrities has worn her collections, which she describes as “sophisticated and classic, with a bit of a twist” (read: fierce and feminine, with structured silhouettes and opulent materials that beautifully embrace the female body). Collaborations, from L’Oréal to Franck Muller, have also forged her status as a trendsetter with a universal edge.
Despite her high profile, however, it’s on the streets of Bangkok that the tastemaker finds much of her inspiration. “There are people from so many different walks of life,” she says of the city. “Just observing them gives way to ideas, both creatively and style-wise.”
The centrally located, bustling neighborhood of Chidlom, where she grew up, is an especially good place to delve into Bangkok’s multifaceted identity and draw from it, she adds. The area—also the location of Rosewood Bangkok—is home to the most innovative fashion and design shops, found in sleek department stores, including Central Chidlom, where one of three Vatanika boutiques is located, and Central Embassy.
“Siwalai, in Central Embassy, is a fantastic multi-brand concept store stocking clothes, leather goods, accessories, and more from young up-and-coming designers, and a favorite of mine,” Vatanika says. “In Central Chidlom, I love to visit the home décor section. I have a thing for interiors and decorating my house, and they really have anything you can think of.”
The neighborhood is also dotted with art spaces like 100 Tonson Gallery and Tang Contemporary Art, both dedicated to profiling regional and international artists; über-popular restaurants such as the bright and airy Quince, where local produce drives a Mediterranean-influenced menu, and Gaa, a fine-dining, Michelin-starred establishment run by chef Garina Arora (see her picks for Bangkok dining). There are embassies and suited-up workers next to street stalls and hawkers, ladies who lunch and bright young things sporting the latest streetwear looks, devotees paying their respects at the Erawan Shrine, and retirees strolling down the tree-lined paths of Lumpini Park. It’s as varied and dynamic a scene as could be.
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Bangkok’s style-and-design youthquake is captivating the fashion world with everything from streetwear to couture. Collaborate with designer-of-the-moment Vatanika, who will create a one-of-a-kind ladies outfit (as she’s done for Jennifer Lopez and Cara Delavigne) as well as a bespoke women’s Franck Muller timepiece.
The inspiration doesn’t stop at Chidlom. “Siam is another great area for people watching—specially to observe the local youth and their eclectic style—and creative stimulus,” Vatanika says. “The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is here, and a real must-visit.”
She also spends time in Bangkok’s malls, which are an integral part of the city’ retail scene. “All luxury department stores in Bangkok have entire sections dedicated to Thai designers,” Vatanika explains. “So when I want to see what the scene is up to, that’s where I go.”
Naturally, she starts off with those housing her two other shops: Siam Paragon, one of the largest malls in Thailand, and Emporium. “Paragon, in Pathum Wan district, has a wide offering of homegrown labels and a little mix of international brands. Emporium, in Khlong Toei district, has devoted its prime areas to Thai designers, over two floors,” she explains. “They’re both great shopping destinations.”
So is EmQuartier, another sophisticated retail complex for the elites. In typical Thai style, they all have tantalizing food courts to match the hip merch on display, meaning it’s easy to make a full hedonistic day out of a visit.
The vintage scene is equally interesting. “For something different, I often head to retro shops, and they never disappoint,” Vatanika says. Indeed, Bangkok is a real treasure trove of secondhand gems, be they jackets or embroidered kimonos, hefty wooden desks or antique lamps. There’s something for every budget, from cheap tees at Chatuchak flea market to pre-loved designer pieces at The Vintage Store, a shop with a cult following among discerning fashionistas and throwback enthusiasts—including Vatanika. “Whenever I go, I come home with something, from jewelry like earrings and bracelets to handbags and suitcases,” she says. The store’s selection spans all-time classics—think Chanel bags and Hermès scarves—and it’s constantly rotating. Treasures, on the first floor of theCommons community mall in the hipster ‘hood of Thonglor, is also a favorite for its range of vintage accessories and early 20th-century cocktail attire, which can be tailored or altered for a perfect fit.
Other slices of cool are found in more niche sections of the city. Bangkok’s Creative District, a recently redeveloped mile-long pedestrian area in the riverside neighborhood of Bang Rak, is a case in point. It’s a hub where young Thai makers, artists, and entrepreneurs have taken over abandoned spaces and kickstarted an exciting cultural revival in what was once considered “old” Bangkok. Plenty of small but noteworthy galleries are here, from ATTA Gallery, which also stocks limited-edition jewelry by local and international artists, to the conceptual Speedy Grandma. Charming boutiques like curated homeware spot Anyroom and salvaged bespoke furniture specialist P.Tendercool add to the offerings, as does Warehouse 30, a massive World War II artillery storage unit converted into a mixed-use space filled with more shops, restaurants, and a screening room.
“Bangkok is constantly changing,” Vatanika says. “There are always things opening, happening. All one needs is to go out to feel its vibrancy.”
Central Chidlom, 1027 Ploenchit Road, Pathum Wan; +66 2 793 7001
Central Embassy, 1031 Ploenchit Road, Pathum Wan; +66 2 119 7777
Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Road, Pathum Wan; +66 2 610 8000
Emporium, 622 Sukhumvit Road; +66 2 269 1000
EmQuartier, 693-695 Sukhumvit Road; +66 2 269 1000
The Vintage Store, Ground Floor, Eight Thonglor Bldg, 88/36 Sukhumvit Soi 55; +66 2 006 2669
Treasures, The Commons, Sukhumvit 55 (Thonglor 17), Klongtun Nua, Wattana; +66 84 665 5626
theCommons, 335 Thonglor 17, Sukhumvit 55; +66 89 152 2677
Anyroom, 41/4 Charoen Nakorn Road, Khwaeng Khlong San, Khlong San; +66 2 861 0955-6 ext. 309
P.Tendercool, 48-58 Charoenkrung 30, Charoenkrung Road, Bangrak; +66 2 266 4344
Warehouse 30, 48-58 Thanon Charoen Krung Soi 30, Bangrak, +66 2 861 0953
100 Tonson Gallery, 100 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini; +66 2 010 5813
Tang Contemporary Art, Room 201 – 206, River City Bangkok, 23 Soi Charoenkrung 24, Talad noi, Sampantawong; +66 2 085 6669
ATTA Gallery, Unit 1109-1110, O.P. Garden, 4,6 Soi Charoenkrung 36, Charoenkrung Road, Bangrak; +66 2 238 6422
Speedy Grandma, 672/50-52 Soi Charoenkrung 28 Bangrak, Bangrak; +66 89 508 3859
Quince, 14/2 Soi Somkid, Pholen Chit Rd, Lumhini, Pathum Wan; +66 94 868 2639
Gaa, 68/4 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road Lumpini, Pathum Wan; +66 91 419 2424