The street fashion industry is a dog-eat-dog world, especially in our city of ever-changing trends and in the digital age, when consumers have access to more choices including the convenience of buying global brands at the touch of a screen. For many local brands, survival of the fittest is the name of the game, but for one particular alpha dog, Bhanu Inkawat’s Greyhound, natural selection has worked in its favor.
Since the opening of its first store in 1980, a small 50-square-meter space at Siam Center, the menswear label has significantly expanded its portfolio to include womenswear and two youthful-offshoots of the original brand (Playhound and Smileyhound), and even crossed over into the world of gastronomy with the debut of Greyhound Café back in 1998—followed by Another Hound Café in 2005 and Sweet Hound in 2010. Today, the Greyhound Original label can be found in 14-stand-alone boutiques in Bangkok, as well as multi-brand stores across Europe and Asia.
While the 37-year-old company’s longevity and cross-cultural success are impressive feats on their own, there is just no denying the profound influence that Greyhound has had on shaping Bangkok’s fashion history. During their ’90s and early noughties heydays, Greyhound was the embodiment of all that was right with the local style zeitgeist—the experimental energy, the camaraderie, the youthful defiance—espousing a style language and, ultimately, a lifestyle that epitomized the modern Bangkokian: discerning, stylish, epicurean, multi-cultural, creative, and cool. They mobilized friends—musicians, actors, artists, editors, socialites—and discovered some of the city’s biggest talents, unknowingly forming the ultimate “Greyhound gang”, who would feature regularly in their fashion shows, campaigns, and lookbooks.
On a dog day afternoon, we sat down with Bhanu and looked back on some of those pivotal moments through a collection of Greyhound’s archival images. So sit back, relax, and prepare for the visual orgasms.
The ’80s : Year of the Dog The ’80s was a fun and exciting decade. Fashion was at its boldest: bright neon colors, fanny packs, parachute pants, shoulder pads, high-top Reeboks, spandex, dancewear, velour track suits, uni-sex clothes, and Italian luxury brands like Gucci and Versace defined the western fashion scene. Meanwhile, back in Thailand, there were two styles that prevailed.
“You were either a ‘mod’ (yuppies who favored imported brands) or a ‘dape,’ (think skinny jeans and a rebellious attitude)” recalls Bhanu with a smile.
“Thai people craved the imports, and brands like Fiorucci from Italy and Calvin Klein were must haves, but they just weren’t accessible unless you knew someone who could bring it back for you. Whatever you wanted to wear, you would have to pull an image from a magazine and go to a tailor to have it made. We were impoverished by the lack of ready-to-wear choices that offered in-trend, good quality, and relevant style clothes.”
Out of this desperation came a golden opportunity: a defining moment for local fashion brands – and thus, brands like Soda, Theater, Pichitra, and Greyhound were born. They rose to the occasion and became the first movers in an industry that just didn’t exist at the time.
In the beginning, it was all about the search for a basic, good quality tee combined with bold graphics, which essentially became Greyhound’s signature. The designs and graphics were heavily influenced by the works of graphic designer and typography artist Neville Brody.
From the very beginning, Greyhound’s exciting product offerings and style presentation were equally matched with ingenious marketing campaigns that saw collaborations with both superstars and rising stars of that time, from the likes of Anchalee Jongkadeekij, Thongchai McIntyre, and Patiparn Pataweekarn, to unfamiliar faces like Samart Payakarun, who would later became a legendary Muay Thai Fighter.
“In the early ’80s we worked with Anchalee Jongkadeekij, who at the time was the epitome of cool, and her androgynous style suited the uni-sex movement that was prevalent at the time. We also collaborated with Thongchai McIntyre in making his stage costume for his first concert, ‘Babb Bird Bird’, back in July 1986. However, one of the most memorable campaigns we worked on in the ’80s for me was with Samart Payakarun, who at the time was not a very well known figure, just starting to become recognized in the fight scene. To me, this was a great success because it was unexpected in many ways, like using a muay thai fighter as a model, but also because Samart represented a lot of what we were as a brand. None of us at Greyhound were fashion designers, just like Samart was not a model—we just do what makes sense to us, and what we think looks good—and at the end of the day, it works, and people can relate to that.”
The ’90s into the new Millennium: Rock On The ’90s marked another profound change as the fashion world was influenced largely by the music scene. Hip Hop culture became a staple, and alternative music was on the rise as a sense of anti-establishmentarianism among disenfranchised youth began to take root. The style became more relaxed, casual, and “carefree”—or rather “careless”—often merging or mixing various styles like sports wear, street wear, and formal wear into a hodge podge of WTF.
“Unfashion was the new cool in the world of street wear but, for Greyhound, it was all things rock: music, art, and lifestyle had the most profound influence on us during those days, and continues to this day,” admits Bhanu.
This sentiment in is reflected in the Greyhound collections and campaigns below.
In the '90s, Greyhound also saw an exciting expansion into new markets that included women’s wear and the food and restaurant business. They also started attracting new talents, such as Jitsing Somboon, who would later become a well-established artist. With new creative avenues to explore and the right creative team, Greyhound took their ethos beyond fashion and turned it into a lifestyle. Their crazy ideas, some which were never realized, and creative process can be seen in the illustrations below.
While Greyhound made a big leap forward from their inception in 1980 all through the ’90s, their most prolific era came at the turn of the millennium. “In the 2000s, we had clearly defined who we were; our clothes, though basic, always had something more than meets the eye, whether aesthetically or functionally—something that has become the foundation of everything we do: basic with a twist. Music remained an important part of Greyhound and we began working and collaborating more with musicians. Pod of Moderndog is one of those musicians we’ve had a long and deep relationship with since the 1990s. To me, he exudes that Greyhound spirit. Some other memorable campaigns we did in the 2000s were with Yarinda in 2013 and with Arak Amornsupasiri and Ploy Horwang that same year. More recently, we did a campaign with Araya A Hargate, Da Endorphine, and Getsunova in 2016.”
Beyond the influences of all things rock, Greyhound has also found inspiration from the things that were closest to them, especially Thailand. The photographic essay above highlights some of these inspirations.
The result of this exercise was Grey: a sartorial exploration of deep-rooted Asian values and heritage, using local know-how and artisanal techniques to create intricate pieces of wearable art.
Fast forward to today: Greyhound has just launched their latest SS17 collection “If I was born in the ’90s” inspired by their heyday in the 1990s. The collection features that familiar, casual, and carefree style that is a mixture between sports wear, casual wear, and streetwear. The latest campaign look book is, of course, styled by none other than Napat “Pat” Sutithon, a Greyhound alum who has has gone on to work as Fashion Editor for Elle Men Magazine.
Greyhound has also just finished their collaboration with Nike, designing a limited edition piece for Nike’s Sock Dart shoes. The design features a central graphic ‘the crying rose’ from their SS17 collection. They’ve also just collaborated with famed director Tuer Nawapon for the production of their video advertorial for the Sand Bag (a new bag collection). If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must watch for the creative wit alone.
In the dog-eat-dog world of fashion, a brand must always be in a perpetual state of evolution. Greyhound has always done so in its own way—and on its own terms—by exploring the world of music, art, movies, literature, and traveling the world, as well as by attracting new blood to the team to keep things fresh and relevant, while the old guard maintains the original spirit of the brand.
Even though this old dog may have aged/changed over the years, it will never be mistaken for any other brand. And while it’s 40-year anniversary is fast approaching, this dog still has a lot of bite left.