Move over K-pop idols: Thai stars want a slice of the luxury pie too

What Happened: Blackpink member Lisa isn’t the only star of Thai descent securing the bag — literally and figuratively. 

On October 9, Gucci appointed Thai actress Davika Hoorne as its new brand ambassador for Gucci and Gucci Beauty. Hoorne, known for her role in Pee Mak (2013), the highest-grossing Thai film of all time, joins Squid Games star Lee Jung-jae, NewJeans member Hanni, Chinese actor Xiao Zhan as well as a host of Hollywood A-listers working with the Kering brand. She is the first representative from Thailand to assume this position.

 

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The Jing Take: Gucci’s announcement comes as more luxury brands recruit ambassadors from Thailand, whose retail market is set to increase by $63.19 billion (or at a compound annual growth rate of 5.95 percent) from 2022 to 2027.

In June of this year, Dior named Phakphum “Mile” Romsaithong and Nattawin “Apo” Wattanagitiphat as men’s brand ambassadors. The breakout stars of the Thai boys’ love drama KinnPorsche were recently spotted at Dior’s Spring/Summer 2024 show in Paris.

In June 2022, Burberry enlisted Thai actor Bright Vachirawit as a brand ambassador, while Prada gave Metawin “Win” Opas-iamkajorn, who starred in the Thai remake of K-drama Boys Over Flowers, the title in January 2023. 

These appointments speak to Thailand’s growing soft power and visibility on the global stage. Beyond the Thai superstars who have achieved worldwide fame through K-pop, like the aforementioned Lisa or GOT7 member Bambam, those who work domestically have also gained an impressive following. Actors Vachirawit and Opas-iamkajorn, for example, have 19 million and 14.5 million followers on Instagram as of writing, respectively. 

According to Brand Finance’s 2023 Global Soft Power Index, Thailand landed at No. 41 out of 121 nation brands, highlighting its existing attractiveness and potential to improve. This soft power push has been supported by the global distribution of Thai content through channels like Netflix and Chinese streaming services iQiyi, Viu and Bilibili. In fact, Thai media conglomerate BEC World saw its global content licensing revenue reach $8.7 million (319.5 million baht) in 2022 after coming in at just $1.3 million (50.4 million baht) in 2017.

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Thailand has a long way to go before it reaches the heights of South Korea in terms of exporting culture. Still, as the “T-wave” begins to wash over the world, more luxury brands are expected to employ local faces in a bid to reach new fan communities and expand deeper into the burgeoning Thai market.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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Fashion, Global, Influencers