Phannapast Thaychamethakool whose illustrations have been commissioned by such big names as Gucci and Instagram talks about the inspiration behind her characters
THE FIRST thing that strikes you about up-and-coming illustrator Phannapast Thaychamethakool is her style. She arrives for our meeting dressed in a long and loose black gown embroidered with fanciful birds of her own design and with a Chinese qipao collar that makes her seem almost ethereal.
Her hair is short with blunt bangs reminiscent of a schoolgirl. She speaks politely and moves gracefully when asked to pose for our photographer. In short, she’s not unlike the fanciful illustrations of animals that have flowed from her pen and caught the eyes of several giant brands including Gucci and Instagram.
Phannapast Thaychamethakool poses with her illustrated covers for Bang & Olufsen’s A9 speakers. /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
Phannapast’s eccentric and brightly coloured beasts ranging from rabbits, peacocks, pheasants, parakeets and kittens to panthers, crocodiles and elephants are also dressed in fabulous costumes – sometimes in a qipao – and boast equally fabulous accessories with floral details as the background.
“These works are like my diary and the animals are just like me – in terms of their physical and emotional aspects,” says Phannapast, the former creative director for Thai fashion house Kloset.
“A fat pig represents my body. My crocodile is a part-time vegetarian because I eat vegetarian food two days a week. My tiger may look fierce but it’s not – that’s also one of my characteristics. These animals are featured in overly posed gestures just like me. They tell my story from the little things in my life to my attitudes regarding acceptance and gender diversity.”
Her illustrations for Gucci’s fairy-tale book to promote its Le Marche des Merveilles jewellery line /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
Over the past two years, Phannapast has become a much sought-after artist who is instantly recognisable for fanciful works that merge her Thai-Chinese background, fashion experience, love for animals and aesthetic obsession with tribal arts.
The 30-year-old artist caught the world’s attention when Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele came across her vibrant beasts wearing Gucci’s cruise collection on her Instagram page. He invited her to contribute to the “#GucciGram Tian” digital talent project in 2016, and last year she was commissioned again to create a stunning fairy-tale book and installation with her writer friend Aracha Cholitgul to promote Gucci’s Le Marche des Merveilles jewellery line.
This fanciful pheasant and monkey was her entry to the #GucciGram Tian digital talent project in 2016. /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
Miniature mock “theatres” popped up at selected Gucci stores around the world featuring scenes from the book, in which cleverly conceived animal characters toil happily in a “Wonder Factory” making the necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings in 18-karat gold and sterling silver that mirror the jewellery collection.
“When Alessandro became the creative director of Gucci in 2015, he launched a range of romantic clothes that I liked so much that I painted my animals dressed up in them. I uploaded the picture to Instagram with the Gucci hashtag but never thought it would land me the opportunity to work with the high-end brand,” says Phannapast, aka Phayoon, which means dugong in Thai.
The love affair between a panther and a dolphin in the Wonder Factory book for Gucci symbolises the artist’s belief in gender diversity. /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
In her fairy-tale book infused with romance and wonder, she also implies gender freedom through the fantastical characters of a panther in love with a dolphin. She recalls how as an adolescent she felt uncomfortable seeing her reflection in the mirror –a schoolboy with a typical crew cut.
“I am so lucky that my parents understand what I actually want. They’ve helped me to get over my diffidence and have always supported my artistic career. But not every family is like mine, many of my friends are still facing prejudices towards sexual diversity,” says Phannapast, who was born a boy but now is a Miss.
Her work to promote Gucci's Bloom Acqua di Fiori perfume /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
Her two projects with Gucci have led to more work with the prestigious fashion house and she is one of the artists that has been hired to illustrate the promotional materials for the brand’s Bloom Acqua di Fiori perfume as well as DIY sneakers that can be personalised with two initial patches in a mix of colours and fabrics.
Cheerful parakeets in the garden are featured as part of Instagram’s backdrop at its New York office. /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
Last year, social media giant Instagram invited her to design a fanciful backdrop for its headquarters in New York. Luxury Thai silk brand Jim Thompson has her printed wallpaper collection. The Peninsula Bangkok has approached her to design a special emblem and a scarf in celebration of the hotel’s 20th anniversary this year and the Villa de Bua wedding venue has devoted one room to her odd, yet magical wallpaper.
An eccentric scarf pattern designed for Ramathibodi Foundation /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
Phannapast is one of the 12 artists contributing to charity by designing the birth-month souvenirs for Ramathibodi Foundation’s project “Happy Give Day... giving lives to millions on your birthday”, proceeds from the sales of which will be used to purchase medical equipment for Chakri Naruebodindra Medical Institute in Samut Prakan.
More recently, she designed a printed cover for Bang & Olufsen’s iconic A9 speaker. Her illustration is exclusively printed on a vinyl cover in three different shades for three disc-shaped A9 speakers that go on auction this Tuesday at Bang & Olufsen’s flagship store at Gaysorn Village to raise funds for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Phannapast and her illustrated covers for Bang & Olufsen’s A9 speakers / Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich
“Phayoon is the first Thai artist we have worked with and her name immediately came to mind when we decided to do a charity project to help animals. Her whimsical animal characters are distinctive and unique,” says Duangkamol Vephula Waagensen, the director of HW Trading, the sole authorised dealer of B&O in Thailand.
“WWF is well aware of the ongoing conflicts between man and wild elephants and has introduced a project to track the beasts with advanced GPS satellite collars. These will help the rangers and park officials to anticipate when elephants are at risk of encountering poachers and alert them when herds are heading toward human settlements. One radio collar plus implementation costs 5,000 euros or nearly Bt200,000 so the proceeds from the auction will go to support the purchase of these devices.”
Phannapast’s design features a dancing elephant encircled by a delicate floral pattern. Unlike her previous vibrant works, the palette is based on Thaitone - Thailand's traditional colourways whose shades are soft and muted as they obtained from natural pigments. Inspired by her love of cruising along the Chao Phraya River, the blue cover has been named “Phraya” to represent this river, the pastel yellow is called “Phra Chan” in a reference to Tha Phrachan port next to Thammasat University, and the red one is “Arun” representing Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn.
“When I was a child, I was afraid of elephants because they were just so big. My father showed me the animated film ‘Dumbo’, which is about a cute elephant, and it made me realise that every creature has a heart, feelings, friendships and family just like us. We humans fear the elephants because we don’t understand them. So my elephant smiles, dances and sings cheerfully to represent friendship,” says Phannapast, who graduated in fashion design from Chulalongkorn University.
The magical character Rainbow Sue represents the effort to reach a desired goal. /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
She’s now working on a project to turn her cheerful rabbit character Rainbow Sue into a 3D vinyl toy figure in partnership with Ren-arai toy producer.
“I’ve always loved playing with toy figures and even today they accompany me almost everywhere,” she says. “The Rainbow Sue figure is 16.7-centimetres high referring to my height of 167 cm. I was born in the year of the rabbit and the word ‘Sue’ comes from my mother’s first name. My mum once said to me that everyone should have a dream and that we have to fight to reach it. Before seeing the rainbow, we must struggle through the turbulence.”
A prototype of the Rainbow Sue figure /courtesy of Phannapast Thaychamethakool
The artist has traditionally drawn her illustration with marker pens, but is now trying her hand at acrylic paints.
“I want to challenge myself in different ways. When I worked as a fashion designer, I was afraid of how people would react to my designs so I stayed in my comfort zone. But now when I’m happy what I’m doing, I continue. I keep working and when my current projects are complete, I plan to set up my own exhibition – it will be like a mini theatre with lots of different sensory aspects,” says Phannapast.
Keep updated with her works at her Instagram @phannapast.
GET ONE OF YOUR OWN
The charity auction of three Beoplay A9 speakers featuring Phannapast’s designs on their covers takes place on Tuesday at Bang & Olufsen store at Gaysorn Village at 6.30pm. The starting bid is Bt90,000.
For details, call (02) 252 3980 or visit www.HwTradingTh.com.