If you don’t recognize Somsack Sikhounmuong’s name yet, you will soon. As Madewell’s new head of design (note: that's how Jenna Lyons started—and revolutionized J.Crew along the way too—so we're excited by the implication), he’s helming their latest denim collection and breathing new life into the beloved label’s classic silhouettes and vintage-inspired prints.
Q: Tell us about yourself!
I moved from Thailand when I was four to a blue-collar town east of Toronto called Oshawa in Ontario, Canada. When I was 18, I moved to New York City to attend Parsons and have been here ever since. After graduation I started working at J.Crew, and 12 years later I was offered my dream job to head design at Madewell! The loves of my life are music, my family, drawing, magazines, and carbs (especially pasta).
Q: What can you spill about Madewell’s new direction?
Consider it a refresh. We are cleaning and simplifying, so we’re steering the collection towards classic, straightforward, and effortlessly sexy design and taking the things Madewell has done best—tomboy pieces, denim, and leather—and giving them a bigger platform.
Q: What’s your vision for the Madewell woman?
I want Madewell to be the go-to for cool, stylish, and unfussy pieces. We are looking to do the opposite of fast fashion by creating authentic pieces that are extremely wearable.
Q: Who is your ultimate Madewell woman?
The women I want to see wearing Madewell are the same that I tack up on my mood boards season after season. They come from all different backgrounds and span a wide age range but are all inherently cool in a sophisticated, casual way. To name a few, Caroline de Maigret, Daria Werbowy, and Emmanuelle Alt.
Q: What do you love about Madewell?
There are so many things I love about this brand but what I love most is its potential. As we grow, there is a level of excitement around the office that inspires and reminds me why I love what I do.
Q: Can you tell us about the denim you designed for Madewell’s fall collection?
We are serious about denim here at Madewell! We are always seeing how we can improve our product so we looked at the jeans we already had and asked ourselves how we could make them even better. The first steps were figuring out what makes up the perfect pair of jeans, hiring a new denim design team, and setting up an office in LA, the denim mecca. The result is the Skinny Skinny Jeans that are comfortable but hold you in all the right places.
Q: What are your top three styling tips for fall?
1. Find a pair of jeans that you feel sexy and comfortable in. If you are going to buy one pair, you can't go wrong with black.
2. Look for a graphic t-shirt that can add some (of your own) personality to your wardrobe.
3. Invest in a leather piece, I suggest a pair of boots or a leather jacket. The great thing about leather is that it looks and feels better the more you wear it.
Q: What pieces from the fall collection do you love and why?
At the risk of sounding redundant, our jeans, t-shirts, and leather jackets because they’re all pieces you can wear forever. I love the idea of building a wardrobe and acquiring pieces you can wear day in and day out; it's the opposite of fast fashion.
Q: The Alexa Chung collaboration was incredible: are you going to do more with her or do you have another tastemaker in mind?
Alexa was such a great fit for us because she really embodied the brand, so the collaboration felt natural and organic. I am most inspired by people and am constantly on blogs, reading magazines and, most importantly, people watching. I’m always looking for new ways to work with cool and interesting people!
Q: What inspires you most?
People and cities (my favorites are Paris, Tokyo, and good ol’ NYC).