Bhanu Inkawat: Elevating a Thai fashion brand to the world stage

Bhanu Inkawat: Elevating a Thai fashion brand to the world stage

Thailand's Bhanu Inkawat has taken his label Greyhound global, a feat many Asian designers can only dream about

Greyhound Greyhound's founder and creative director Bhanu Inkawat has taken his fashion brand global. After many years in advertising, 55-year-old Thai style maestro Bhanu Inkawat decided to do something groundbreaking. He started his own fashion label.

This was rare in Thailand in the early 1980s, but Inkawat's brand, Greyhound, was soon making heads turn with its edgy cuts and hip designs.

Then Inkawat did something even more rare -- he took his Thai label around the world -- where it is now worn by fashionistas from Sydney to Stockholm.

This week, the forward-looking Bangkok fashion label will show at Singapore's Audi Fashion Festival.

CNNGo chats with founder and creative director Bhanu Inkawat about an Asian brand going global and being a small player in the big world of fashion.

CNNGo: You started Greyhound in Bangkok in the 1980s and its designs are now sold in many markets all over the world.

Bhanu Inkawat: "All over world" sounds like we are bragging. I prefer just "in many countries."

We started expanding about five years ago, when we saw that there was demand from tourists who visited our stores in Bangkok or who went online.

Our collections are sold in multi-brand boutiques in Paris, Stockholm, Zurich, Berlin, Sydney and Tokyo. Greyhound is also expanding to Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Bali, and, of course, in Singapore and Malaysia, where we are working with Tangs Department Store.

But we are still small compared to many of fashion’s big brands.

CNNGo: With such diverse markets, who do you design for?

Inkawat: Anyone who identifies with Greyhound style, which is young and up to date.

I would say that Greyhound is not for everyone though; our creative design twists might be too hard to for a traditional dresser to swallow. Our core audience tends to be people in art-related fields like advertising, music, entertainment and design.

CNNGo: Which is your best market?

Inkawat: Still Bangkok. We’ve been established here for 30 years, and Thais recognize Greyhound as a leading Thai fashion and lifestyle brand. They shop at Greyhound and also enjoy our food at Greyhound Café.

CNNGo: What were the biggest challenges you faced taking Greyhound global?

Inkawat: Our competitors used to be other local brands but in today’s globalized world, customers automatically compare us with the big names. It's forcing us to keep improving to meet international standards, but also makes it tougher for us as we are in a different league.

CNNGo: Do you consider yourself a Thai designer or an international designer?

Inkawat: A Thai brand with international standards.

Greyhound Greyhound's design twists aren't for the the conventional dresser.
CNNGo:
What is Thai about your designs?

Inkawat: One could define Thai style, especially Bangkok style, as beautiful chaos -- everything and anything goes together harmoniously. And at Greyhound we are inspired by the idea of combining chaos with beauty.

CNNGo: What is your take on the potential growth of the Thai fashion industry?

Inkawat: First and foremost, Thailand needs to correct the old perception that we offer only cheap and copy products.

Instead, we have to point out that Bangkok offers a variety of styles and quality, including local designer brands that are original and creative.

We also need more discipline. We have a lot of freedom in Thailand and that reflects in our work, but we lack discipline and a system that enable us to grow our businesses successfully on the world’s stage.

CNNGo: Are you planning to take Greyhound Café beyond Thailand too?

Inkawat: Yes, there are many enquiries from markets in the region and we are working hard to expand this side of our business. I think Hong Kong will have the first branch of Greyhound Café outside Bangkok.

Unlike fashion, where things change every season, food customers always want everything to be the same!

CNNGo: What’s next for Greyhound?

Inkawat: We will continue to explore different markets in the region in both fashion and food, and look out for new business partners.

You might find Greyhound in your city soon.

Audi Fashion Festival 2011 - Greyhound

The Tent at Ngee Ann City
May 16, 9 p.m.
Tickets from S$51-S$60 via SISTIC or www.audifashionfestival.com

Elaine Ee writes about Singapore, the city she lives in, covering the arts, events, personalities and social issues. Her stories have appeared in Time Out SingaporeTatler HomesFood & Travel and Jetstar Asia. She’s also an editor at publichouse.sg, a Singapore community-driven website run by socially conscious denizens. When she’s not at her laptop, she practises Bikram yoga, spends time with her three kids and makes it a point to keep trying something new. 

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