HommeGirls for Banana Republic
Throw it back to 1978—Banana Republic’s roots start with two California creatives who upcycled military surplus clothing. From our first store in Mill Valley with surplus men’s shirts belted and sold as dresses to the infamous 1992 Kate Moss ad shot by Bruce Weber with her styled in our men’s sweater, we've always borrowed from the boys. When it comes to shopping in the men’s department, no one does it better than HommeGirls. The passion project of designer Thakoon Panichgul, HommeGirls is a creative collective dedicated to women who wear men's clothing. It was only natural to team up with HommeGirls to tell the story of Wear & Share, our latest curation of classic pieces for anyone to wear in the modern world. We sat down with Thakoon to discuss why menswear in women's fashion is more relevant than ever—then let him style our classic pieces his own way: in the HommeGirls spirit.
What was the catalyst to launch HommeGirls?
Thakoon: It was brewing in my mind for a while. When I first started fashion, I had a stint as an editor at Harper’s Bazaar for four years. I started as an assistant writer, moved up to fashion editing and was really seeing how fashion was covered from a media perspective. Then I moved into design and was designing for at least ten years. All this time, I think it was brewing in my mind—born out of my assessment of the landscape, media and the feeling that there wasn’t anything talking to this particular kind of woman. I’ve been around in fashion long enough to know and have many friends who really subscribe to this idea [of menswear for women]. It began as a talking point. The more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking—there isn’t a platform for something like this at all, even though we all love it. All of my girlfriends love it. They buy men’s clothes. I saw an opportunity to talk about style. I’m sick of trends and I think we’re all living in this world where we’re cycling through trends so fast.
What does style mean to you?
When I first started in fashion, and in my design, and people were asking me about the difference between fashion and style. For me, when I was younger, it was hard to decipher. Now, it’s very clear. Style is something that transcends with simple things. It doesn’t have to be about big sleeves and big baggy pants—style is something that’s more innate. It’s learned over time. HommeGirls is something that personifies what style is.
Especially now, in the age of Instagram, it feels like everybody’s a critic but also—everyone is so quick to show up with the latest trends. Things are coming in and out so quickly it’s hard to even keep up. Everything is overwhelming, and it’s loud. People complain about it. HommeGirls, for me, is to be able to talk about fashion as a style but also in a quieter way. We are talking about men’s clothes, and what attracts women to men’s clothes. From there, you can hone in on the button-down shirt or that perfect men’s t-shirt or that boy jean. It’s very precise, the conversation that we’re having. The precision is so needed right now, and it’s more emotional. Girls really emote on this. Much more so than ruffles, I think.
Fashion is inherently political. From your point of view, what message does a woman in menswear send?
I think it sends a couple of messages. The most important one is comfort in her own skin—she’s not after the male gaze. That’s the first message: self-confidence. For the audience that’s seeing her, it evokes a sense of power. Tailoring gives you a sense of authority. In this day and age, when we’re talking about gender equality and empowerment issues, the need for this sense of authority is riper now than ever before.
No doubt. For women who might be timid to shop menswear-inspired styles, do you have any words of advice on mixing and matching? How can you make menswear feel like you? I think it’s really about the balance of the pieces. If you’re going to do a structured blazer, pair it with a simple slip dress or slip skirt—this brings softness to the men’s look without trying. It’s more of a natural look, I would say. Find the feminine balance to something masculine.
You've said there’s a lot of loudness and that you want to get back to instinct. For a woman looking to get back to instinct, where should she start? What do you envision with this notion of women going back to their fashion or personal style instinct?
I think that they should hone in on the best silhouette for them. Start with practicality. Narrow down two silhouettes that really work for you and your body, and then from there start to build into that. If you know that a high waist always looks good on you, try a high-waisted trouser with a belt cinched. Tuck in a white tank top and then throw on a men’s blazer. Try it. And if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s not a tank top, maybe it’s a T-shirt. Try the silhouette. Add and then subtract within that silhouette until you land on the right pieces. Once you find the right look, do it over and over again. That will start to create your style. People will come to know you for that. Do it with conviction.
How would you say menswear styles for women break traditional boundaries?
I think that we are in an era where we make our own rules. I don’t think that anyone wants to be told what to do. So, I think it’s whatever is comfortable for you. I’m not going to sit here and say you should wear a certain dress—I don’t think that’s my place. You can do whatever you want to do. I’m just saying there are other ways to be feminine without having to completely show your body. And then raising the question: Who’s leading the conversation within women’s fashion?
Anything else you'd like to share?
HommeGirls was a passion project that I had been dreaming up. It’s from the heart. It’s really to create a space to have these discussions—it’s exciting to ignite conversations in people. The audience is diverse. I want to create a community that bands around this. I think women need more options—especially younger girls.