Q&A

Issue 34

Young co-founders of Thai men’s street- and urbanwear brand Q Design and Play,Praphat Somboonsittiand Ekkaphum Treechairusmee, talk about their brand and the Thai fashion industry.

How did you get into the fashion business?
PS: I studied graphic design then after I graduated I worked at Ogilvy & Mather for two years. I’ve always been interested in art but I chose fashion because I wanted to express myself.

Can you tell us a little bit about Q Design and Play?
PS: Five years ago I asked Ekkaphum to start a shop with me.
ET: We started from a shop at Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Siam Square and now we have shops at Siam Center, Zen, Siam Paragon and Emquartier [in Bangkok].

Who are your main customers?
PS: Half are Thai, half are foreigners, mostly from Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and other ASEAN countries. Asian people like our designs. They are mostly young people from high school students to first jobbers.

What is the feedback from your customers?
PS: Our customers are those who identify with our brand concept. We see Q Design & Play as an ‘Irony Boyish’ person. We like to express topics that are rarely addressed in Thailand. For example, for Fall/Winter 2014 I designed the Weird Dream collection revolving around the concept of bullying as I was bullied as a child. In another collection I used basic colors and structures because I was told that my art is terrible, so the collection was my message to them that despite that, my designs sell.

When did you become well-known?
PS: It started in 2013 when we went to Seoul Fashion Week, then in 2014 we went to the Mercedes Benz Asia Fashion Week, the Creative Expo Taiwan and earlier this year to the Paris Fashion Week, as part of the Bangkok Showroom. We’ve attended BIFF&BIL since 2014, and it was then that we gained a clearer direction for the brand and more support from the DITP. We’ll also go to MQ Vienna Fashion Week in Austria this September. We’re also one of eight designers to appear on Thailand’s Vogue Who’s On Next project this year.

What are your main export markets?
ET: Taiwan, Japan, China, Canada and Singapore. We’re trying to push our brand to sell overseas.
PS: We still want the brand to be strong in Thailand, though.

What is the strength of Thailand’s fashion industry?
PS: Thais support Thai designers. Thais consider buying clothes from Thai designers a luxury, and they love to wear what Thai celebrities are wearing.
ET: We also have good craftsmanship and our culture generally appreciates good designs.

What are your plans for 2015?
PS: We want the creative side to be stronger and create more trust with our customers. We want to become a destination for Thais and foreigners and we’re also looking into lifestyle businesses.

For more information, visit www.qdesignandplay.com

 

Issue 33

 

Saran Durongdej, managing director of water technology company Mazuma, talks about his plans to expand its business across ASEAN, and the company’s green initiatives.

Can you tell us how Mazuma came about?
The company was founded by my father in 1993. He thought that urban living would mean more people would need water purifying systems in their homes. I stepped in to help manage Mazuma 15 years ago after I earned an MBA from the US. Now we manufacture water purifiers and filtration systems, water heaters and storage tanks.

Who are your main clients?
In our early days, we used to go on overseas tradeshows with the DITP, such as to Bangladesh. Now we have many corporate customers in Thailand like 7eleven, Fuji restaurant, Seefah restaurant and SCG. Most of our sales are still in Thailand. However, with the upcoming AEC and the elimination of export taxes we’re looking at a much bigger market, from only 60 million people in Thailand to over 600 million people in ASEAN.

Where are you planning to expand your business?
Now we have a large number of customers in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. This year, we’re entering Indonesia, and we have a partnership called Mazuma Indonesia which imports our products. We may also consider establishing a production plant in Indonesia.

How is the water system industry in Thailand compared to other ASEAN countries?
We have a good sales service so I think there is still a lot of room to grow in our neighbouring countries. CLMV customers also prefer Thai products as they see that Thailand manufactures quality products at reasonable prices.

How has the market trend for water systems changed compared to 20 or 30 years ago?
People are now more health-conscious. They want quality drinking water and they view taking hot showers as a way to increase blood circulation and to relax. Water purifiers and heaters are much more necessary for today’s lifestyle than in the past.

Can you tell us about your green initiatives?
Mazuma is a green company, as we have designed our products to last for a long time using the value engineering systematic method. We also have a team of aftersales and service technicians to serve clients in different regions and in the CLMV. Our production plant treats and reuses 100 percent wastewater and carries out other energy-saving initiatives like using low-energy light bulbs.

What is your next project?
For 2016, we’re looking into manufacturing and installing solar roof tops and solar cells for home users. Though the initial costs may be high, it’s a great way to lower fossil fuel use.

For more information, visit: www.mazuma.co.th 

Issue 31

Darunee Waedang, founder of the Khun Jack brand, winner of Thailand Trust Mark (TTM) and Thailand PM Award 2014 for Best OTOP Export Recognition talks about the woven cotton garment industry and expanding her business into Muslim countries.

Can you tell us how the brand was established?
We started from being an OTOP (One Tambon One Product), and we produced garments for other brands for almost ten years. Seeing our products in department stores inspired us to create our own brand. We joined many training programmes held by the DITP, and I sent my daughter to study design.

Who are the designers behind Khun Jack?
We have a team of young designers. We create uniqueness by mixing Thainess with international trends. Our design changes drastically every year, we cannot stand still. We also have foreign designers who understand the style of each country, whether it’s Australian or Japanese designers. Our Thai designers would learn these styles and develop into their own styles.

What is unique about Thai woven cotton?
Thai woven cotton is complicated. Our garments may look simple, but they come from a complex process that ranges from weaving textiles, dyeing fabrics to designing the garments. The best weavers are in Lumpang province, the best dyers are in Prae province, the best batik painters are in Utaradit province and the best embroiderers are from the hill tribes. It takes time [to go] from the beginning to the finished product.

Who are your clients?
Most of our clients are Australians. Australians are very strict about timing, while Japanese clients understand that [making] handmade products requires time. For Australian clients, we would take orders a year ahead. On the other hand, US clients would focus on high quality.

So where can we find Khun Jack garments?
Now we’re in Siam Paragon, Emporium and King Power. We’re also talking about business opportunities with clients in Shanghai and Singapore. However, first of all our clients need to understand the nature of our production. Handmade garments require time and understanding, and we’re very upfront and we would talk about possible obstacles first. If the clients are fine with that then we can talk business.

What are your plans for 2015?
This year we’re looking more towards Muslim customers. We want to start a trend about natural and eco-friendly products in the Muslim community. Their economy is also improving, so they have the purchasing power. In ASEAN, more than half the population is Muslim. I believe the Halal certificate for clothes and accessories is very important, and as some of our garments are made from leather, we’ll apply for the certificate in 2016. Also, we’re sending our designers to Indonesia and Dubai to gain more clarity about their preferences for colours and their garment sizing. We really need to do our homework before entering new markets. Another plan is to start mixing hemp fibres with cotton to create different textiles. You have to be bold and courageous to stay in the fashion industry.

 

Issue 32

Quincy Yu, Vice President of IQ Plus Music talks about the success of the business that offers a selection of musical instruments designed and produced in Thailand for children.

How has your business developed?
IQ Plus Music was officially established in 2009 and we have since gone on to develop our product line to include more educational instruments for children. Expanding the line from our core expertise of hand percussion, we now include a selection of string and wind instruments as well as a strong offering in Orff instruments such as xylophones and glockenspiels, which form the basis of early childhood music learning. We now export this product line to over 30 countries around the world and of course we have a strong following in our home base in Thailand with many international schools here using our instruments for their music classrooms. 

What challenges did you initially encounter?
Early on in order to find customers we had to attend trade shows that catered to children to show our instruments. Unfortunately for us, 95% of trade shows that cater to children are toys and games fairs. Our products are not quantity-driven and as a company we are not set up to handle orders for tens of thousands of each item. Instead, everything in our factory is hand-made and individually tested to ensure optimal sound quality before it can be shipped to the customer. When you play an IQ Plus instrument, you can be 100% sure that you will get the perfect pitch every time. Over time, our product quality shone through and our customers came back to us on their own accord. It is my belief that with any product-related business, to achieve long-lasting success in the long run, the quality of the product itself must be of paramount importance.

What are your main export markets?
Our three biggest export markets last year were Australia, South Korea and Germany. All of these countries are backed by a strong educational system with government budgets to support growth, while we are also lucky enough to have excellent business partners in each country who continually strive to expand the network of IQ Plus Music in the school systems of their respective countries. 

What do you try to achieve with IQ?
We are trying to build a culture to educate parents and teachers around the globe about the positive influences of music towards a child’s early childhood development. Through each of their commitments to expose their sons and daughters to music from a young age, we are hopeful that collectively, they are raising altruistic human beings that will possess and display empathy and compassion, as well as higher intellectual and emotional capacities, traits which have all been scientifically proven to be a direct result of exposing a child to music from a young age. Perhaps some of them may even inspire their inner talents for music and grace us with timeless masterpieces like Mozart and Beethoven once did in their time.

What are your special plans for 2015?
This year, we are starting to work with prominent retailers around the world to offer IQ Plus Music products in shops and online retail sites to supplement our presence in schools. In the first phase of our company’s development, we focused most of our attention on getting our instruments into school music classrooms where they will reach the hands of children and teachers. After having established a decent network on that front, we are now shifting our focus a bit towards the retail side, which will allow for our products to become available for children to play them at home as well. 

What are the strengths and opportunities of Thai toy industry?
In my opinion, the biggest strength and differentiating factor for our Thai Toy Industry is the fact that Thai companies focus on innovation and product development at a fundamental level. Furthermore, Thailand boasts a highly-skilled work force when it comes to crafting wood, which is another major benefit for Thai toy factories, as there is rarely a shortage of skilled labour. To this day, Thailand remains an attractive destination and reliable source for both OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) and especially ODM (Original Design Manufacturing) where Thai toy factories are able to not only manufacture products for foreign brands, but to design them as well, which in most cases is the most time and resource consuming process. With these strengths, I believe the biggest opportunities for Thai toy factories is venturing out and creating their own brands to sell all over the world.

Do you think the upcoming ASEAN Economy Community will affect the business or industry?
Yes, absolutely. I believe that the establishment of the AEC will affect our industry in many ways, first and foremost in terms of price competition. The promotion of free trade amongst AEC countries will also naturally bring with it significantly increased competition, which I believe will prompt Thai toy factories to place even greater emphasis on design and product development. Ideally, it should also push the Thai work force to improve their working efficiency which will be a win-win proposition, allowing them to maintain their edge over the workforce from neighbouring countries and also helping their employers by reducing average labour costs at the same time. The establishment of the AEC in the coming months is a very interesting prospect and we are all excited to see what changes it will bring to our industry and businesses. 

 

 

Issue 30

Award-winning Thai designers Sirilak Mahajuntanaporn and Wararat Puapairoj reveal how Yenndesign’s products reflect their own lifestyle.

How did Yenndesign come about?
We started Yenndesign as a design studio after first meeting at a DITP project in 2006, and we officially launched our brand in 2010. We use the word Yenn (cool or evening in Thai) to reflect both the cool temperature and the time when people are free from work. It gives us the sense of relaxation.

What distinguishes Yenndesign from other design companies?
We just design our products from what we want. We start from what we know best like our interests, daily life, hobby or even the weather. Our products represent our lifestyle, as well as being open for our customers to add theirs. Take for example Chang Beanbag. Customers can use whichever position they feel most relaxed in. Some of them have even sent us pictures showing how they use it differently from what we have shown in our brochure. They could have fun with our product. So our target is just people who have the same interest and style as us.

You recently received the Good Design Awards 2010 JAPAN, can you explain more about that?
We wanted to create a product to show in Milan with the concept of simple, smart and light. Our product should not be too big for shipping, but it should expand to a bigger size when used. So Chang Beanbag was our answer. Chang means elephant in Thai. It is inspired by the strong legs of an elephant, these bean bags can be used in a number of ways, even by two people at once. The cover is durable and water resistant. We just fold the cover when shipping and the customers adds the beans. With this product design we won the Design Excellence Award, Prime Minister Award and Good Design Award JAPAN in 2010.

What has contributed to the success of your business?
In terms of design, we think we are on the right track by starting from our lifestyle and daily use. The awards we have received give us more confidence that our design concept is broadly acceptable.

In your opinion, what are the strengths of the Thai design industry?
Thai designs and craftsmanship are unique, so we should promote our identity and do branding instead of dumping the price to beat other countries. For Yenndesign, we cut some unnecessary production details and focus more on the craftwork. In this way, the value of the product is increased. In addition, we think the design awards now promoted help enhance the Thai design industry, and urge Thai people to feel more interested in design.

What are your plans for 2015?
We have created our new collection of bags called Pao, inspired by the Chang Beanbag. We have focused on Pao for four to five years. Each time we go to trade fairs, Pao has received very good feedback. So now we plan to expand our business outlets for Pao instead of just selling at fairs.

 

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