The see-now-buy-now movement, which launched to great fanfare a year ago but has since slowed, has lost another convert. Silas Chou and Thakoon Panichgul said Monday they have put their direct-to-consumer, see-now-buy-now venture on hold, and are considering restructuring the business.
Thakoon’s model was one of a handful of companies that experimented with the see-now-buy-now concept, to varying degrees of success. Those that showed entire see-now-buy-now collections were Rebecca Minkoff, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry and Ralph Lauren. Other companies offered capsules of see-now-buy-now merchandise to complement the following season’s offering.
A year ago, the model was seen as the way to reignite consumer demand for designer fashion after several years of generally lackluster sales. Retailers and designers blamed the out-of-kilter fashion calendar for shoppers’ blahs, saying consumers no longer wanted to wait six months between seeing images of a collection and being able to buy it. In the age of Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, retailers contended, consumers wanted what WWD dubbed “instant fashion” — clothes they would see on the runway and would be immediately able to buy.
That was then — and this is now. Retailers queried about the see-now-buy-now movement after the most recent round of New York shows last month were decidedly less enthusiastic and admitted it wasn’t the panacea many of them had hoped for.
“There was a lot of hope and expectation that see-now-buy-now would deliver [more],” admitted Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue last month. “The reality is that the customer looking for newness and special products is going to buy them when they’re available to her. She’s willing to wait for them.”
“I’m not a proponent of see-now-buy-now,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, designer fashion director of Nordstrom Inc. and founder of Jeffrey New York. “We’ve been given no proof that it’s something someone like me needs to get behind. I feel now more than ever that it’s not a good idea. There are more constructive things we as an industry can do to improve retail sales.”
The Chou-Thakoon venture was founded at a time when “instant fashion” was in its heyday. But even a Chou spokeswoman seemed to admit it was caught up in the changing industry tides.
The spokeswoman said in the last 10 years, Silas Chou has been building a big investment portfolio, including companies in the fashion and tech sectors, such as Thakoon. “However, we have recognized that the business model is ahead of the current retail environment. Therefore, we are taking a pause, and an eventual restructure,” she said.
Silas Chou’s daughter Vivian Chou’s company, Bright Fame Fashion, bought a controlling interest in Thakoon Corp. in December 2015 for an undisclosed sum. She planned to position the label as high-end sportswear brand sold exclusively through the New York flagship and its directly operated e-commerce site. Accessories and limited-edition products were part of the offerings. There were high hopes for the brand, with Chou looking to replicate her father Silas’ success with Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors.
Thakoon’s brand, which was headquarterd in Hong Kong, began building its team last year and made several key hires. Among them was Lucy Yi, who became the brand’s president. Panichgul’s longtime business partner Maria Borromeo stayed on as chief executive officer and was based in Hong Kong. Under the direct-to-consumer concept, Thakoon showed two collections. The company spokeswoman, who said the business was put on hold, declined to give further details of staffing and other operations.
“I still believe in Thakoon’s tremendous design talent and the brand as well as the strong management team behind this project,” said Silas Chou.
Thakoon Panichgul said, “It was time for my brand to explore a new business model and this opportunity allowed us to do so. We can now take the learnings from this to apply to the next evolution of Thakoon.”
The company declined to reveal what will happen to the brand and said next steps are all under consideration. The company is shipping spring merchandise.
Thakoon presented a 10-outfit spring collection at a New York event in an effort to have an “immersive experience.” Afterward, the collection was available at the company’s online store and its flagship on Manhattan’s Wooster Street. WWD noted in its review that Panichgul “delivered a commercially savvy, cohesive collection that will tempt women when sunny, warm days arrive again.”
The company’s Web site shows a more comprehensive offering of dresses, tops, coats, jackets, sweaters, knits, accessories, shirts, bottoms and sleepwear, ranging from $25 for a cat nap mask to $575 for a sateen jacquard sleeveless jacket. Many of the tops and bottoms are in the $225 to $350 range.