Ms. Sirithip (Praew) Sripaisal Sirithip is the Founder and Chief Executive Director of DA+PP, a fashion brand that creates vintage-inspired, limited-edition themed collections for Millennials. Launched in Bangkok 2011, DA+PP now exports to China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

“I started my brand – DA+PP – 4 years ago. It’s part of the DAPPER umbrella, which my dad started over 35 years ago, but it’s managed completely separately and captures a totally different market. DAPPER targets professionals 30 years and above that want to look neat and trendy. For us, it’s 20 years and above and our clothes are more casual, youthful, and fun – more street wear. I wanted to do something new and saw a gap in the market. At that time, you basically either had the international brands – luxury ones or Zara and the like – and Thai designers that are very niche and tend to be quite expensive. Not much in between. I can’t compete with Zara because their production is much faster; they have many more designers, and sell huge quantities. So I decided to start a new kind of fashion retail model that provides premium quality clothing that is reasonable, approachable, and affordable to the mass market. We said, ‘Let’s try it in 1 or 2 stores and see how it goes.’ Now we have 14 stores in and around Bangkok.”

“I got a budget for the first collection from the mother company and that’s how I was able to start. In the first year we opened a new store every 2 months. That was to reach economies of scale as fast as possible. We needed volume to be able to sell our clothing at an affordable price and I couldn’t wait because it was not going to be sustainable. It’s a lot of money that goes into inventory. For most customers, to sell 1 shirt you need to offer 5 different options to choose from. That’s a lot of store investment, so I planned to make profit the first month of every new store that I opened. It was very ambitious but I didn’t want to borrow from a bank, so that’s all I had. For the business to prove that it’s successful and can be sustainable, you need to plan out your expenses very, very tightly. It took me about 15 months to break-even.”

“When I first started here, I waited until I could get a very prime location so I wouldn’t need to wait for traffic. People might not know my brand but they come from the escalator and they can easily see our store. I make sure that things I make are reasonably priced – I don’t mark up to mark down, so we never have end of season sales. It helps getting a stronger customer base and it’s better for my cashflow. I didn’t want to be one of those brands where people say, ‘I would never buy it at full price.’ We only produce each item in a limited quantity so our customers now know that if they like something, they should get it right there and then because it might not last. We produce at least 100 new styles every month and everything comes to the Siam Center store first, every Wednesday around 4-5pm. After a month and a half here, I bring it to another location. It’s all based on customer behavior.”

“Before starting DA+PP, I spent 4 years working for the mother company to learn about the industry. I went to all our factories in the country; I was shop manager at some of the stores; I worked with designers, with merchandisers, with my parents, the buyers, everyone. I needed to understand how the whole system worked so that I could come up with something new and have a chance to succeed. I didn’t know how it was going to work out at all. The reason I wanted to start my own brand is that if I failed, it would be contained. I was not going to drive my parents’ business down because they have been doing that for almost 40 years.”

“I am very transparent with my staff. I always take time to explain the real situation and I make sure that they understand the reason for anything they do. When they are involved and they see the whole picture, that’s when you see results. But if you don’t explain things to them and you just point fingers and say ‘do this’ ‘do that’, they won’t care much. I give them a lot of room. I tell them ‘Do however you want it and let me know if it works’. I know I have to take this kind of risks; otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to come this far. I told the first person I hired, ‘I don’t have anything for you. I just have an idea. I don’t have a table, a high salary, an established brand, or a track record to show that I am capable of doing what I want to do. I just have this thing that I want to achieve and if you want to be a part of it, then we do it together and we’ll figure it out.’ “Is this person still around?” “Yes, he’s still here.”

“You really have to study the market, your consumers, your brand, and your space very well. I can’t be everywhere but I can be where there are the right people that want these kinds of products and this stuff is not yet available to them. Let’s say, if I were in Myanmar right now, I would fail, but in 5 years I might be very successful. My target now is to expand to other Asian countries and in the future to the US, Europe, and Australia. In the US I want to target Asian Americans because there is no brand like this for them right now. They are buying things that are not designed for them. In Australia, same thing – there are so many first-generation Asians.” “What makes these clothes more tailored to Asians?” “It’s because they are more cheeky and fun. I would say Europeans have a more particular style, perhaps more sophisticated and cool for certain things. They most likely wouldn’t wear the veggie sweater or the shirt with the little whale on it. This blue dress itself could perhaps be sold in more than one country, but not so much with this captain pin on it. Asians would buy it just for that. They would be like, ‘This is an extra effort, a cute thing; it’s the captain that drives the boat when they travel.’ Europeans would probably say, ‘What is this? Take that off.’”

“What would your advice be to aspiring entrepreneurs?” “Have a really good plan of why you want to do it and how you would do it. Really make sure that what you are doing is different and special and wanted. That it is not already available everywhere and that there are enough people that want to buy your products because if all you are doing is a ‘me too’ thing, you are guaranteed to fail. Make sure that your goal is achievable. Don’t dream this big if you only have this much. If you only have this much, then plan for that and make it very well. And plan everything out so that it’s not a surprise to you – what resources, how many people, and how much time you need.”

Company: DA+PP
Location: Bangkok
Founded: 2011
No of Employees: 80