Praew herself did not follow the classic path expected of girls in Thailand. “I’m not a typical Thai girl,” Praew tells me, “I didn’t do ballet, I didn’t have cooking classes, I went into sports and then after school I studied in the US for 10 years.”
After working for the family business upon her return, she launched her own fashion brand, DA+PP. She’s asked me to meet her at the brand’s latest pop-up store on the third floor of the Central World Mall in Bangkok.
“I understand that DA+PP is about more than just fashion and clothing,” I say as we stroll through the store. “You have a message you want to share with the next generation, is that right?”
“I want to tell young people to take the opportunity to be themselves, choose their own path and to create their own style,” says Praew with determination.
“So with your company you are setting an example for other Thai entrepreneurs?”
“I try to,” says Praew. “Traditionally in Thailand entrepreneurship was frowned upon. Young people were – and still are in many cases – expected to study, get a job and then slowly work their way up the ladder. The idea of starting something on one’s own and breaking with this hierarchical system is very new, it’s only in the last decade or so that people have started to see entrepreneurship as an option, but there is still a long way to go.”
“What are key challenges facing young entrepreneurs then?
“Most entrepreneurs don’t have a clear vision of what they are doing or why they are doing it and that means eight in ten businesses fail. Those who succeed are the ones who have a purpose for their brand and their company.
“In my case, I am also trying to change the leadership style at DA+PP from the traditional authoritarian style to a more horizontal system where staff at all levels can have a say and where responsibility is spread through the team. I believe this kind of inclusive leadership also strengthens the brand.”
“So in a way you are redefining traditional business and leadership models, and breaking some rules along the way?” I say with a smile.
Praew laughs. “I don’t necessarily want to break the rules, I just want to show people that there is another way. So that they can choose how they want to live their lives.
“You know that the social division between boys and girls is still very traditional in Thailand. We get pushed into a certain role. And that’s fine, as long as you know that there is an alternative.
“Especially for girls, my message is: be independent. Think and speak up about what you believe and want, and make sure there is a real purpose to it.”
© CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands