By moving from his usual show space in a cavernous warehouse to the chandelier-lit Grand Ballroom at The Plaza, Thakoon Panichgul prepped the audience for something decadent and lavish. And, yes, that was one half of the equation: the rococo richness of Marie Antoinette. But he connected it with, of all things, a Masai warrior. “They’re the same, just two different tribes,” he said. “I’m looking at the clothing habits.” It’s an odd cocktail of influences, but in Panichgul’s hands, a superb one.
Take his opening look. Panichgul took on the week’s popular puffer and whipped up a version in blue-and-red plaid (lifted from a traditional Masai pattern) and delightfully poufed on the sides, pannierlike. Variations on that theme included a spectacular down coat worn atop a full silk taffeta skirt that made for an edgy, urban take on frothy, bustled-up Versailles. That two-prong approach continued throughout. Most of the patterns and prints, including arty batiks and stripes, were inspired by East Africa, while the silhouettes mainly hinged on the courtly side — pouf peplums, ruffles and folds. Ambitious, yes. But Panichgul maintained control of this marriage of mixed motifs: Shots of chic sportif cast everything into a modern and ultimately street-savvy light.