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Thai sisters' fashion label sells the stuff of daydreams

Sretsis' flowery motifs and confluence of influences attract fans across generations

From left: Youngest sister Matina Sukhahuta, Sretsis' jewelry designer; eldest sister Klyduen, the label's marketing director; and Pimdao, who serves as creative director.

BANGKOK -- When three Thai sisters set out to launch their own fashion label in the early 2000s, they knew exactly what motifs and materials they wanted to use: flowers, fruits and animals, with plenty of lace, ribbons and embroidery. They could not have known that, less than two decades later, their romantic and dreamy designs would be seen on global celebrities like Beyonce and Paris Hilton.

The brand is Sretsis -- "sisters" spelled backward. The three were in their early 20s when they established the label in 2002. It has become one of Thailand's top apparel brands, with a following that spans 20-somethings to 50-somethings.

The clothes mean different things to different people, depending on where the customers come from, said eldest sister Klyduen Sukhahuta, or Kly, who is now 40. "Some say they look like old Chinese wear, some say they look like a Vietnamese traditional dress. It depends on the cultural experience of the person."

One customer who has been a Sretsis devotee for 15 years described the brand as "stylish but somehow retro." "I'm now a little bigger [than I used to be], so I fix the clothes and still wear them," the woman said.

Kly chalked up Sretsis' cross-generational appeal to a Thai cultural tendency, in contrast to, say, Japan.

A model walks the runway in a typical Sretsis dress in a Tokyo show in 2015.    © Getty Images/Kyodo

"In Japan, women tend to wear [clothes] in a 'proper' way," appropriate for their age, she said. "In Thailand, women wear what they want" regardless of how old they are, be it a one-piece or a miniskirt.

Sretsis' knack for blending cultures and styles mirrors Thailand itself, which developed its unique culture in part by absorbing characteristics from India, China and the West. It may also be a result of the sisters' own background. Born to a wealthy family in Bangkok, they studied overseas in New York and New Zealand, where they had the opportunity to soak up all sorts of inspiration.

"My parents were worried about me, but I decided to study abroad," said Pim, or Pimdao, the middle sister. Matina, the youngest and the brand's jewelry designer, currently lives in London, where she is brushing up her skills.

The label's confluence of influences is getting noticed internationally. Sretsis opened a flagship store in Tokyo's upscale Aoyama district in 2014 and made it into the opening of Tokyo Fashion Week the following year.

The theme of the brand's 2018 spring and summer collection is the "language of flowers."

The Sretsis Parlor in Bangkok. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara) 

Sretsis, though, is no longer just a fashion brand. In December it opened a parlor in a posh shopping mall in central Bangkok.

Behind pink doors, a fairy tale-esque interior welcomes -- or perhaps overwhelms -- guests. The walls are covered with unicorn and lion-patterned pink fabric. Small flower designs on the carpet and chairs enhance the air of fantasy. Woman, again spanning various age groups, can be found chatting and snapping photos of the decor.

"We travel a lot and get inspiration from what we see. Our design has been inspired by British gentleman's clubs [and] traditional Thai ceramics, for example," Pim said, adding that the idea for the unicorn-lion wallpaper came from a tapestry she saw in a New York art gallery.

Kly said the global movement to seek diversity is sweeping the fashion industry, too.

"The market is changing. There are more selections than before," she said, suggesting there is room for a unique brand like Sretsis on the ever-evolving style scene.

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