Meet Waan Pithansombat, Founder of Jungle Jetsetter
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Waan is the founder of Jungle Jetsetter and also a dear friend. We met a couple of years ago and found that we shared more than a few things in common. Born in August, we're both Leos; both strong willed women (with equally voluminous hair); and both developing a business from scratch, while deconstructing and recreating ourselves.
Jungle Jetsetter is a startup Thai fashion brand with an interesting proposal expressed through made-to-perfection products. Having worked with Waan for the past few months, I can certainly assure you that she is precise, artistic, has an incredible eye for design and remarkable attention to detail. Pretty great skills for a CEO of a high-end fashion brand.
Jungle Jetsetter and Gypsy Amazon have similar brand DNA and core values, which is why we have recently decided to collaborate on a professional level and support each other on many other levels.
As I was reading the Product descriptions, this particular sentence grabbed my attention: "Waan is on a pursuit to find the real meaning of life and in the process, find herself. This ongoing journey had led her deep into the unknown; she has, oftentimes, been afraid to let go of the life she once knew—but she has kept going." I would like to begin this interview giving you some context about Waan's empowering life journey.
1. Waan, you mentioned you often feel afraid of letting go of your "old life". Could you describe your "old life" in a few words?
My life used to look like a picture on the postcard...but don’t look too hard!
I grew up in Thailand. My family are kind people, though they often fret over what others might think of us. At the age of 28, I married a man whose life looked like something out of a glossy magazine; as I flipped through the pages, I knew deep down that I was in the wrong place. Yet, I didn’t want to give up, as I was afraid of how others would judge me. I was living a rockstar life that was full of excitement, fame, power—yet at the same time, it was fucked up. So as much as I tried to help my ex-husband heal, my life was going downhill. Towards the very end of the marriage, I realised that having many houses, yachts, Prada, traveling endlessly around the world didn’t give me any peace or true happiness. For 10 years, my identity was built from this marriage: it was intimately tied to my career, family, and friends...so it was very hard to walk away, though I couldn’t recognise who I was anymore.
2. What made you "quit" your old life and step into the unknown?
I guess I just wanted to find clarity, to know what is really important to me and who I am in this world outside of external circumstances. I didn’t want to leave; I felt really guilty, but if I had stayed in the same environment that had been feeding me an illusion for a very long time, I wouldn’t be able to see and explore what’s out there. The only way was to leave the marriage.
Driven by my strong will to evolve and with the support of my dear friends, I set out on a solo trip to Peru. I had heard about Ayahuasca, a teacher plant that could give me clarity, and spent two weeks in the Amazon taking part in Ayahuasca ceremonies. It showed me who I really am without status, without expensive clothes, big houses, big titles. I realised that those things that once constituted a “successful life” no longer mattered to me. I realised that freedom, the very ability to just be, was more important than social status. I could no longer share my life with someone who had such different core values and ambitions from my own, or someone I could never connect with on an emotional level, let alone a physical level. It made me understand that if I continued to be that “perfect” woman that society formed me to be, my soul probably couldn’t have survived through this pandemic. This realisation set in motion a new process of letting go of programmings that no longer serve me in my spiritual growth—discovering and unlearning so many ideas that don’t even belong to me. If I hadn’t left my comfort zone and stepped into the unknown, I would have never discovered this better, stronger, kinder version of me. Yes, it was very scary to jump off from a cliff, but it has been the most rewarding thing I could have done for my life.
3. How is your life now and how does it feel?
My life now is so different than before. I'm still finding the balance between working and living in a place that gives me inspiration and aliveness. Starting a new life and new business just as COVID was hitting sounds counter intuitive, but that’s when I started to taste the real freedom of life. Two years ago I could not even think about staying in a house by my self; today, I am so at peace and enjoy spending time in my bubble on a quiet beach. I feel empowered by my capacity for independence and am slowly starting to grow my dream life. It is like watching the most exciting movie.
I have been witnessing how life unfolds in a magical way once I let go of control and let go of fighting for something. At the same time, I continue the practice of standing up for myself, without the need for people to love me or accept me. Life continues to show me tricks and surprises in every possible way, transforming my family relationships and business. All the while, wonderful friends keep showing up to support my journey. It seems that my life is continually improving, but I often beat myself up when I don’t achieve “unrealistic goals” that I have set for myself while attempting to navigate the storms of change and transformation. This is something that I have to be aware of; it’s so easy to fall back into the old programming that I have to be the best…getting out requires a lot of self-compassion.
4. How was Jungle Jetsetter born?
The name “Jungle Jetsetter” came about seven years ago when my lifestyle was pretty jet set but my mental health was not really there. Personally I enjoy traveling everywhere, it doesn’t always have to be luxurious. I just really love being in nature.
Jungle Jetsetter was really born at the beginning of the pandemic when I was in the strangest place and time on Earth. I drove from Chiang Mai to Railey Beach, Krabi for a photoshoot project. Deep inside, I felt that the situation with this virus was only going to intensify. I packed enough food, clothes, camera gear and about 20 pair of Jungle Jetsetter fisherman pants, in the hopes that I could sell them to exclusive hotels and their guests on the island, but after 10 days there, all the hotels were closed and no one was on the beach! Yet somehow, I started to sell a few pairs online, and over the next two months, everything would sell out within the first week. I had to start buying more fabrics and developing new designs from there on out.
5. What was the idea behind your first creation?
At first, It was more for me, not for sale.
I just got bored with what I was wearing while on the beach or boat. Most people wear the same thing when they go to a beautiful beach club or luxury hotels. I wanted to wear something different. So fisherman pants came up. I love how comfortable they are, but the original traditional ones are not flattering at all.
The idea was—and still is—to take something ubiquitously Thai and give it a new perspective. Jungle Jetsetter envisions Thai fisherman pants in a new light: one that is elegant, stylish, flatteringly cut, and able to furnish frequently flying jet-setters with highly comfort and effortless cool.
6. Why makes Jungle Jetsetter such a unique brand?
Every product, every fabric, every DNA of my brand is a combination of my passion and personal experiences. Jungle Jetsetter represents the fusion of my long career in art-textiles-product development-retail business. It’s the culmination of my time spent working at Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company; creating lifestyle collections for clients; setting up the museum shop for Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum; as well as my extensive travels throughout different countries and cultures. Jungle Jetsetter gave me the opportunity to create something that fits seamlessly into my life—something fun, something that takes me back to the sea and allows me to share my excitement with others. It’s really satisfying.
7. Why Fisherman Pants?
Fisherman pant remind me of an adventurous life on the big sea and relaxing under the coconut tree at the same time. It’s the uniform of local fishermen—I grew up with five uncles who all wore fisherman pants religiously. I wore them, and they looked cool, but in a tomboy-ish way. They were made for men, so the fit tend to be big and baggy.
So I started to make my own pants, adjusting patterns to find the right proportion, fitting, curves that compliment the female body. No one has ever imagined using luxury see-through laces or metallic knitted fabrics on fisherman pants before, but we did—that’s why people started to pay attention to what we were creating. Our fisherman pants are cool, beautiful, and can be worn in the big city at a cocktail party or on the yacht or a long tail boat. I have always envisioned women wearing our pants with high heels, small sling purses and beautiful accessories, as well as pairing them with swimsuits, beach bags and sun hat.s
8. What's the message behind the brand, and the product?
To me, fishermen pants are a symbol of FREEDOM: freedom of self-expression, of movement, the freedom to be in the middle of the sea. Freedom from having to zip and buttons (inspired by the original versions intended for fishermen, ours are equally easy to take on, take off, and quick to dry). And aren’t we all searching for freedom?
9. How do you envision Jungle Jetsetter going further?
Jungle Jetsetter continues to be a source of strength, self development and inspiration for me, as I take on life’s endless changes. My hope is that it will grow into a platform which I can share inspiring life stories that support people who choose to get up, jump off from a cliff, and follow their heart. I know how scary and frustrating it is, so if I can use my creativity to help others in some ways...this is one of the things I have been thinking of.