In this issue, we welcome Umatip from the brand URTHE. While telling us about the situation now in Thailand and Asian fashion, Umatip will guide us through the process of building a brand that is both popular online and offline. Moreover, she reveals the struggles the brand faced in the initial phase as she and her husband who are the founders of the brand, had no prior experience in fashion.
Nana : URTHE is such a well-known brand in Thailand and has many followers on social media, can we ask about the brand’s concepts?
Umatip : Our concept is that anybody regardless of male, female, or gender can wear our clothing. We want anybody to be able to wear our products and want to meet their needs for everyday wear.
Nana : Why did you initially create the brand and name the brand URTHE?
Umatip : In 2012, there were no other brands that had our style and so we created the brand.
Nana : Did you have any background in fashion before that?
Umati : No, I actually graduated from accounting.
Nana : Oh really? So you had a background in finance first!
Umatip : I graduated with an accounting degree but me and my husband, we fell in love with fashion and decided to do the brand together.
Nana : When did you create the brand?
Umatip : We started at a flea market and a smaller market
Nana : Wow, so now you have over 300K followers but you started at a flea market. Amazing. What has inspired the brand?
Umatip : The name of URTHE actually comes from the Thai word “the” which means “you are cool”. And we added “UR” to that so that it’s easier to remember. Our clothing reflects art, politics, and even some of our local art here in Thailand.
Nana : I see, Thailand is moving a lot in politics right now as you’ve mentioned. So, who is the main target for your brand?
Umatip : My target is students around people who have started working, ranging from 15 to 30 years old. Both male and female. Our stores have many branches near universities and Chennai and not just Bangkok.
Nana : It’s cool that you do not only focus on only online but actual boutiques because the two are so different in terms of running the business.
Umatip : Yes, we’ve worked really hard!
Nana : Has COVID-19 affected your business?
Umatip : Because the government announced that we would need to close our shops, and because our shops were mostly based inside malls, we now only run online. The government actually just announced that malls will be opening again soon.
Nana : That’s so good to hear, almost two years after closing!
Umatip : We are so sick of it, being in one place all the time and constantly being online!
Nana : We found it interesting that you focus on Facebook too as a selling platform because in Japan, we don’t buy things on Facebook.
Umatip : Yes, in Thailand, it’s common that people contact the brand on DM and purchase a product.
Nana : How many staff do you have on your team right now?
Umatip : About 20 at the office and 16 at the shops.
Nana : What is your current impression of fashion in Thailand and the difference between 2012 and 2021.
Max : Nowdays, it’s different because anyone can wear what they want in Thailand. We don’t have rules and standards depending on gender anymore. And so we create unisex clothing.
Umatip : We noticed that your Instagram style had some parts that linked with Korean fashion.
Nana : Yes, because in Thailand, Korean culture is very popular in Thailand and we were surprised that people in Korea were wearing our clothes as well!
Nowdays, it’s different because anyone can wear what they want in Thailandumatip from Urthe
Nana : Yeah, Asian fashion really goes beyond boundaries these days whether it’s fashion in Thailand or k-pop styles.
Umatip : How is it in Japan?
Nana : Oh, we are definitely heavily influenced by k-pop and kdramas.
And I also wanted to ask you about how I have the impression that Thailand is really open to the topic of LGBTQ＋.
Umatip : In Thailand LGBTQ＋ has a strong community and we focus a lot on their cultures such as the beauty contests. I think they are getting a better representation and many people such as parents really focus on teaching their kids about being themselves.
Nana : Amazing. So, that’s why you focus on clothes that anyone can wear.
Umatip : Exactly.
Nana : What were your most hardest and challenging experiences running the brand?
Umatip : We found the initial design and the fabrication of the product very difficult. Because we had no background knowledge. And so we had to grow with the customers.
Nana : Have you notices a change in the fashion market before and now that the pandemic has occurred?
Umatip : I think I don’t see much of a difference but we all have been cautious about creating a sanitary environment. How is it like in Japan?
Nana : In terms of streetwear, it’s really hard for Japanese brands and because k-pop is becoming so major, Japanese people aren’t buying from Japanese brands as they used to.
Umatip : Oh, so not made in Japan.
Nana : Yes, because about 10 years back, people really talked about the good quality of Japanese products but now people know that other countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Korea make good quality products as well.
Umatip : I had the image that Japanese people are very selective of what they wear, like what quality and what color. I really like Japanese cotton.
Nana : Compared to places like Thailand and Indonesia where people try to make and establish their own brands after they graduate from college, in Japan, people are really focused on the influencer market and creating the brands. I think Japan is facing a moment of struggle.
Umatip : Are people in Japan focused on the local market?
Nana : I think so, even more now after the pandemic occurred. I think Japan needs to start looking more from a global perspective in terms of fashion.
Do you have any advice for our readers who would like to create their own brands?
Umatip : I think that the advice I have is that before creating your own brand, you should know what style you like. If you know what kind of unique style, you can differentiate yourself from other brands and create a distinct brand. That leads to giving color to your brand. Also, it’s important to understand the whole process of the building aspect of the brand and knowing what your customer wants. We really did that by going to small flea markets all over at first.
Nana : Are you planning on expanding your business?
Umatip : If I’m able to, I want to open more stores in Asia.
Nana : Outside of Thailand?
Umatip : Yes, but it will be very expensive. Especially since all of our products are very approachable in terms of cost because its target is university students.
Text: Yuka Yoshimura