This homegrown Thai eyewear brand is eyeing success in Hollywood
Jidapa Watsotok was midway through her day in March 2016 when calls and messages started to flood in on her mobile phone.
Puzzled by the flurry of activity, the founder and chief designer of Thai artisan eyewear company Jida Watt calmly put her work aside to browse through her messages.
The unthinkable had happened. One of her designs made it to Hollywood.
It had all started when her London-based public relations agency delivered a pair of Jida Watt sunglasses to American media personality Kylie Jenner.
The make-up mogul decided to take a selfie of herself wearing the pair of Jida Watt sunglasses and posted the picture on her Instagram account. Within seconds, the photo — and the Jida Watt brand — gained global traction among her almost 55 million followers at that time in 2016.
In the next four to five months, Jida Watt’s first collection, launched only a few months before, was completely sold out.
“It was a huge surprise to see her wearing my sunglasses and posting about it on Instagram,” Watsotok recalled. “I’d love to say ‘thank you’ to her a million times.”
A strong brand ethos
For Watsotok, starting an eyewear company of her own had been a dream since she was 27 years old.
She launched Jida Watt — an abbreviation of the first two words of her name — in 2015, and pursued an eyewear design course at the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Lunetiers, a training institute in France.
Her time there allowed her to delve into design fundamentals while experimenting with different design philosophies and improving her design skills.
Yet, Watsotok was also aware that the highly competitive nature of the designer eyewear scene means it could take years before she would be able to establish a name for herself, which was why the Instagram post by Kylie Jenner had been so significant.
It helped catapult a local Thai brand onto the global stage.
After her first collection sold out, Watsotok received multiple requests from across the world asking her to relaunch the eyewear.
While most brands would have jumped at the opportunity to profit from the situation, she decided to stick to her principles of maintaining her brand’s exclusivity by producing only one collection per year.
It was this sense of individuality and brand integrity that garnered the brand worldwide acclaim in recent years.
“Consumers appreciate the fact that we stick true to our ethos of producing unique, handcrafted designs that you can’t find anywhere else,” she said. “In a world where big brands produce dozens of collections a year, we stand out because of our unwillingness to jump on the bandwagon.”
A one-woman team
In running a business, Watsotok has taken an unconventional route, and kept the team small. There is only one employee in her company: herself.
She oversees the design aspect of the brand, while outsourcing the manufacturing to a workshop in Japan. Her agencies in both London and Los Angeles handle matters relating to public relations and marketing.
Working as a one-woman team has its perks. For one thing, she can work remotely without a need for a physical office. She is also able to personally oversee and maintain a high level of quality for all her products.
But being the only person responsible for all aspects of the business also means that having a simple, fuss-free logistics process is critical.
In 2019, Watsotok began working with DHL Express Thailand, which helped simplify outbound deliveries, in time for the launch of her fourth eyewear collection “Abrumms”.
She has been able to ship out orders within minutes without having to worry about unnecessary administrative processes or bottlenecks. Her customers have also been able to receive their packages on time, and in perfect condition.
All of this has helped Jida Watt improve its customer relations and reinforce the brand’s quality and identity, Watsotok explained.
“No matter where they are, customers expect quick and reliable delivery these days. DHL has been handling all the processes with care and I’ve not once heard of any complaint regarding delivery service from my customers,” she said.
While the bulk of her customers today comes from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Watsotok hopes to further expand the brand’s footprint globally by creating a wider variety of collections.
In particular, she has her sights on growing the brand in the U.S. and France, where she has a strong following of both retail shop partners and online customers.
“E-commerce has the ability to put a small business on the global map,” she said. “It’s a world of big opportunities.”