Brunch with Buro: Actress and designer Janesuda Parnto
Jack of all trades, master of style
Bangkok-based actress, TV host and now fashion designer Janesuda Parnto was only 14 years young when she got her start in the entertainment industry. After starring in local music videos, she found herself standing on the other side of the fence, throwing to music clips as an MTV veejay. With a whole number of TV dramas under her fashionable belt, the Thai-American is now celebrating the third birthday of her celebrity-loved eponymous line, Janesuda. We chat with Jane about what life has been like in the public eye for two decades and how her label started with just a T-shirt.
What was your breakout moment in the entertainment world?
My breakout moment was when I started as a veejay for MTV Asia. The programme connected me with Gen Y-ers all over the country. I love music and it has always been a part of my childhood, so MTV was an amazing experience, putting my passion into work.
What was the experience like?
It was hectic and I was just riding the wave of chaos of doing live programming, interviews and being immersed in music and the culture around it. By the end of it I was definitely not camera shy and learned how to improvise and be quick on my feet.
I bet you have a couple of crazy stories to share!
I'll never forget the Bangkok MTV Asia after party (laughs). Wow those days, it was wild! We were dancing so hard my stick on bra somehow fell off and landed on the shoe of certain famous pop star. It was an accident — not deliberate of course.
What did you learn from your time in front of the camera?
Some teenagers may have different jobs to help pay for their holidays and get the things they want but growing up, my part-time job was working with MTV and acting. I never saw it as a glamorous endeavor — in fact, it is far from it. You have to be punctual, show up with 100% whether you're sick or having a bad day... It can be way more stressful than most people would imagine. Plus, there is always the false reality when you work so much in the media just as I have. It is important to always stay grounded and humble.
Is being a public figure/designer a blessing or a curse?
Both fashion and acting are my outlets for expressing my creativity and point of views. They both are very different areas of work and my customers at Janesuda are not necessarily part of my fan base from my acting career. The customers for my boutique are affluent, fashion-forward women; they are early adopters of fashion and lifestyle who choose my designs based on quality and uniqueness. On the other hand, my acting fan base is very broad and more mainstream. They enjoy seeing me take on different personalities on television and movies.
Was it difficult, penetrating the fashion circle in Thailand?
People in the industry have known me for years before I started making clothes commercially. They were there since I took my very first steps into the fashion world. I was no different than any bedroom designer or fresh fashion graduate with big dreams. At the end of the day, you have to let your work do the talking and you have to put in the time knowing nothing comes easy. I am proud of what my collections represent. I am humble for the response and support everyone have given me thus far.
Around the time you launched your label, Instagram started becoming really popular. Do you think you would you have been able to launch the brand without social media?
Social media amplifies the social buzz happening in real life, so Instagram and other social media platforms have helped brands like mine with niche following, to reach a wider audience. But in the end, our core customer base is the most important. We strive for the best possible quality for them; they are who we started the brand for, who we will continue to serve. It took us three years before we were ready for a runway show. The fashion industry has changed so much that a runway show is no longer a must-do for new brands wanting to break out. We rely on building strong relationships with key media and our customers to build our business. It is a slow burn and not a firework that comes and goes.
You have a cool one million followers on Instagram — that's a lot of popularity!
Yes, I'm grateful for all the love on @janesuda!
Everyone from Chompoo Araya and Paula Taylor wears your brand. Who would you love to dress next?
My mother. As a single mother who has given her all for future for her only daughter, she's been an inspiration to me. But she's also very stubborn and hasn't let me dress her yet!
Perhaps one day she will relent... Is it true that it all started with a T-shirt?
I wanted a perfect T-shirt to wear during my MTV days — something with a great pattern and quality fabric. I couldn't find any, so I started making my own. I was mostly making them for myself and my friends and didn't take this passion seriously until 2011. I woke up one day and decided it was time to work on this brand after thinking about it for almost 10 years.
I see a lot of pearl accents and lace in your current collection. Would you say they are the hallmarks of Janesuda?
The technique we use on our hand-stitched lace is one of a kind. Every piece in our lace collection has to be done by hand and some pieces take up to eight hours to complete. This is what Janesuda is mostly known for. I have spent a good part of two years researching and refining our design to get to my collection to this point. In that time, I've also built my loving team of pattern makers and sewers who are some of the best in the business. I can't be more proud of them.
What's next for Janesuda?
For now, I'm keeping the focus on Thailand and Southeast Asia. Maintaining quality production and the uniqueness of our collection is key, but there is so much room for Janesuda to grow in this region. I have had great response from Europe too, but we're not yet ready to expand.
Do you believe in trends?
It's not that I don't believe in trends — they are output of our culture, therefore, trends are important in shaping our lifestyle and our views of the world. Having said that, as a designer I am inward-looking, taking inspirations from my eyes and experiences, so I don't base my designs on trends or try to predict what will be in or out.
You're pregnant with your first child. Will we be seeing a maternity range anytime soon?
Although I'm tempted, maybe a private collection just for my little one.
He/she will be a very stylish bubba! How do you expect life to be post-baby?
Everyone around me says nothing can prepare you for your first child and your life will change forever. I will fully understand what this means very soon. It's hard to predict what it will be like but one thing is for sure: I am going to bring my child into our world full of positivity, creativity, and inclusion.
Shop Janesuda online or in store in Bangkok, Thailand, at Eight Thonglor, ground floor; Paragon Department Store, 1st floor; and The Emquartier, 2nd floor.