Thailand’s Jim Thompson plans global expansion
A Jim Thompson flagship store will open in Bangkok’s Siam Paragon tomorrow as a preliminary step in a five-year global expansion plan.
Similar flagship stores have been announced for Hong Kong and Singapore, and other major international retail destinations.
The luxury brand’s first flagship, it is next to Bombyx, one of Jim Thompson’s five restaurants, and integrates touchscreens to give customers access to the catalogue as well as animated representations of its designs.
These adaptations reflect the brand’s commitment to going digital (just two years ago it did not have a website or sell products online). It plans to launch it first online store soon in Thailand, to be followed by online stores abroad following the establishment of physical retail locations.
Jim Thompson’s expansion plans have been presented to the board of the owner, The Thai Silk Co, by its first chief executive Gerald Mazzalovo, who has been seeking new locations and partners taking charge two years ago. He was formerly chief executive of fashion labels Bally, Clergerie and Loewe, and group president of Salvatore Ferragamo.
The Thai Silk Co already exhibits its Jim Thompson, No.9, Fox Linton and Studio B home-furnishing products in five countries but for now offers its clothing and personal goods only in Bangkok, Malaysia and Singapore.
Mazzalovo says Bangkok is an obvious choice for the first flagship store, given that the brand’s history and identity are so closely connected to the Thai capital. Within the next five years the company will set up similar flagship locations in London, Paris, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai – in that order, says Mazzalovo.
His idea is that expansion to Europe first will help it build its reputation as a global brand before
moving into the Chinese market.
He says China is one of the most profitable opportunities for the brand, but the market there is much more likely to welcome the brand when it has established a name in Europe, rather than only in Southeast Asia.
Mazzalovo believes the company has all the makings of an international fashion house.
The company’s values of authenticity and mystery are still anchored in its founder Jim Thompson, a Princeton and University of Pennsylvania graduate who arrived in Thailand in 1946 after working in Southeast Asia for a US wartime intelligence agency. He disappeared mysteriously in Malaysia in 1967.
Meanwhile, the company opened a fabric showroom this year in Bangkok and will open a high-end contemporary restaurant in the next few months.
Mazzalovo says the firm is highly profitable despite competing against brands like Chanel, Ferragamo, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada. He considers the company to be closest to Hermes in terms of product and brand management.
In this first year with the company he recruited 15 designers and assistants from Korea, Italy, France, Finland and Thailand. The company employs 3000 people and has nearly 40 boutiques around Thailand.
* Photos: Jim Thompson’s Siam Paragon’s flagship store.