“I like my money where I can see it: hanging in my closet,” columnist and fashionista Carrie Bradshaw said in an episode of the romantic sitcom Sex and the City. It’s one of those throwaway statements that make some of us roll our eyes, and others nod in agreement—because it’s all too true. And as we learn from some of Bangkok’s biggest spenders of luxury brands, binge shopping comes with (well-deserved) privileges we all would appreciate. As the saying goes, ‘Go big, or go home.’ Meet the elite fashion consumers with boundless budgets we’re all just a tad envious of.
“Shopping can be quite therapeutic,” remarks a deadpan Jitradee Poolvoraks. After a long day of work-related stress, she finds luxurious contentment in looking at beautiful things on social media and in magazines. “But it usually ends with me wanting to get my hands on them,” she laughs. She’s definitely an impulsive buyer and one with impeccable taste. Earlier, the executive director of Major Development PLC and MJ One Group had greeted our team wearing a Chanel ensemble before changing into a Giambattista Valli dress and Charlotte Olympia pumps for today’s shoot.
The wardrobe switch is not just for effect—the two brands are some of her current obsessions (or, to put it more simply, big splurges). “I adore prints, especially floral, and that is what Giambattista Valli does so beautifully and boldly. His designs have a classic, yet contemporary edge,” she tells us. For shoes and clutches, she has a soft spot for Charlotte Olympia for its unique, whimsical flair. “I personally love leopard prints and cats, so the brand’s signature Kitty shoe range is my guilty pleasure,” she smiles.
Spending lavishly has its perks. “Mostly it’s the privilege of having a first look of the collection before other customers,” she shares. When the brands go on their buying trips and spot pieces they think Jitradee would fancy, they’ll send her pictures—real time. “That is when I decide whether I want to pre-order the item,” she laughs. There would be instances when she eyes specific pieces in an upcoming collection or spots a Hollywood star wearing something she likes; in that case she would request a special order.
With Chanel, Hermes, Manolo Blahnik and Bulgari amongst her other favourite labels, the glamorous executive is also a keen collector of costume jewellery by Oscar de la Renta, Erickson Beamon and Shourouk. “For the latter, I collect the limited-edition pieces,” she tells us. What else does she splurge heavily on? Pullip dolls. “They would release special collections, such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and La Rose de Versailles. As of now I have about 50 dolls as I usually buy them in sets,” she says. Looks like Jitradee has a penchant for the word ‘limited.’
“Do I shop a lot? I have surprised myself seeing seven figures on my credit card bills,” laughs Niti Sawangwatthanaphaibun. He reaffirms that his love for shopping is not because clothes and accessories boost his confidence. For him, it is due to his appreciation for the arts. “I’ve always been interested in the theory of colours and in craftsmanship. Fashion is therefore one of my most profound passions,” shares the managing director of Best Wishes public relations and celebrity management company
The 30-year-old has evolved from a Givenchy gent to a Dior Homme one. “I used to wear more colours and prints, but now that I’m working, I’ve been donning more solemn looks,” he tells us. “Dior’s suits make you look more polished when compared to many other brands. They offer a sophisticated, yet stylish appeal, while haute couture techniques highlight the fashion house’s DNA.” For some, putting money in expensive clothing may seem excessive, but he sees it differently. “I don’t buy clothes because they merely look good on me—I invest in ones that come with a story,” he says. With Dior, for instance, he especially enjoys reading about the inspirations its artistic director Kris van Assche has for each menswear collection.
Niti’s favourite shopping buddy is none other than his partner, Adisai Kunjara Na Ayudhya. “I’m lucky we share the same passion—we can shop eight hours straight without any complaints,” he laughs. Listed amongst the high rollers of Dior Homme, they were invited to attend last season’s fashion show in Paris. “It was extraordinary how we got to experience the collection so personally,” he shares. But apart from the memorable trip, he tells us that he has always been impressed about how attentive to detail Dior is when it comes to taking care of its customers. “They never neglect to send gifts during special occasions and they even seem to know when your grandmother is ill,” he laughs. “These special privileges I receive are why I prefer shopping here rather than abroad.”
Benjawan Buhrman admits that she does shop a lot, but adamantly denies being a shopaholic. “Us ladies just love to dress up,” she argues. All right, that kind of makes sense. But despite that justification, what about the fact that she owns over 300 pairs of shoes? “Well, OK, I might be a shoeaholic then,” laughs the 30-year-old. That fashionable whim of hers has put her on the list of Roger Vivier’s top spenders in Thailand.
Roger Vivier was actually one of Benjawan’s dream brands as a little girl. “When I finally got my first pair, I realized that they are not just pretty. The shoes are comfortable and, most importantly, makes you feel elegant wearing them,” she says. Being one of the fashion distributor PP Group’s elite customers, she adds, comes with personalised privileges. “I don’t have much time to go out, but shopping with PP Group is never a hassle,” she laughs. “They’ll send me pictures of new collections, and if I want to try anything on they can do a special delivery to my house. And this isn’t just limited to Roger Vivier and applies to the other brands under their operation—I also frequently request the service for Loewe and Givenchy.”
What’s her shopping habit like? She’s not one to stick to just a single brand or style. “I don’t follow trends, I follow my impulse. There may be months when I’m especially keen on a specific label or particular season. With Roger Vivier’s shoes, for instance, I’ve bought certain models in many colours,” she explains. Benjawan also shares that a few years back when Dior launched a collection inspired by Andy Warhol, one of her most favourite artists, it did some damage. “My walk-in closet is filled with shoes, handbags and clothes from that collection,” she laughs.
Similar to Jitradee, Salilaporn Kongthongmaneeroj seeks retail therapy when she feels completely worn out from work. And she must be unusually exhausted, as she’s amongst the top spenders of Herm่s, Chanel, Dior, Prada and Miu Miu. Not to mention, her lavish expenses have caught the attention of Emporium—the CEO of Me Infinity and daughter of well-known folk singer Sornthep Sornthong is also the shopping mall’s brand ambassador.
She’s a proper brand-name junkie with a staggering collection of items any fashionista would be jealous of. Let’s start with Herm่s. “How many handbags do I have? I haven’t counted in a while. It must be over 50, but definitely not 100,” she laughs. Her favourites are Kelly, Birkin and Constance, for she says their designs are timeless. “It’s also a brand that you can truly invest in,” she adds. For Chanel, Salilaporn is a huge fan of the iconic tweed jackets and its limited-edition clutches. When it comes to Dior, she mostly shops its clothing and handbag line. “The brand offers a more proper and a not too out there elegance, which is ideal for work and formal events,” she shares. As she loves wearing black for evening functions, she tells us that Prada highlights beautifully classic silhouettes in the colour. “Some collections also feature a playful touch that is rather refreshing,” she says. “And for Miu Miu, I love its cheeky clothing and shoes.”
On being a big spender, she explains that privileges are quite individualised. “Some people don’t understand why although they’re a top spender they don’t get invited to every single event abroad—the brands actually put a lot of thought into which ones would be appealing to each customer. With Chanel, for instance, I’m invited to their Cruise shows as they know I adore their tweed jackets,” she says. Also a VIP of Tokyo’s Herm่s, she often receives updates on special arrivals and is invited to their events. Here, she can do special orders. And as one of Dior’s 20 elite customers in Thailand, she believes that one of the reasons why someone would fall in love with the brand is because of its exceptional service. “I receive pictures before new collections are scheduled to launch and gifts on special occasions. It’s amazing how they seem to know my every move,” she laughs.
Thawin P Siaotong
“The most I have spent per month is eight figures, but that would be because the list of purchases included jewellery,” says Thawin P Siaotong of the Mark Thawin hair salon empire. He has an ardent fondness for high jewellery, and while it has not been long since he fell head over heels for Bulgari, he has already made it to the top of its high-profile customer list. “I’ve always been fascinated about the Italian brand’s history. But it was merely that—a fascination,” he says. It began a few years ago, when several fortune tellers, including the renowned Luck Rekhanithet, told him he was a phaya naga in his past life. “I tried to find a trademark for myself that involves the snake; because of that Bulgari’s signature Serpenti pieces became an obvious choice,” he shares.
Thawin looks for exquisite and intricate craftsmanship when choosing his jewellery. “These bracelets are actually for women. I had the chance to meet Giampaolo Della Croce, director of high jewellery, and he gave permission to make my size,” smiles the 47-year-old. Just last year, he was invited to attend the maison’s exclusive showcase at the Ritz Carlton Reserve, Krabi. “The event was an unforgettable experience as it brought together some of the region’s top clients. It was also lovely to meet some of my Chinese and Singaporean fans who follow me on Instagram,” he shares light-heartedly.
The young-at-heart character describes his personal style as daring and playful. “I have a taste for sparkles and vibrant hues—I simply love feeling lively,” he says. “Sometimes, I opt for the minimal look, but I wouldn’t feel much like myself.” Some of his other favourite labels include Burberry and Chanel. “I could raid an entire collection if I deem it fitting with my character or style. I’ve bought a season’s worth of Chanel tweed jackets before,” he laughs. Thawin’s favourite shopping in Europe is France, whereas in Asia he enjoys Japan a lot. “I love Omotesando Avenue, but I’ll usually shop for Japanese brands such as Comme des Gar็on, Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe,” he shares. When in Bangkok? “Most likely Siam Paragon shopping mall. I go there almost 20 times a month— every other day—so it’s almost like a second home to me.”
This article is first published on Thailand Tatler March 2017. For more features like this, grab your copy on newsstand now.