With nothing but dreams of becoming a professional stylist, Suthee “Bank” Ritthaworn left his office job in Bangkok to go pursue his passion in New York. How did a regular marketing staff with no fashion background become an intern for NYC’s most celebrated stylist Patti Wilson and work with many international brands? Let’s find out.
Straight from New York, Bank is on the line with EQ today to talk about his journey, work and the inspiration to realize one’s dreams.
From business to fashion
Even though I have a business degree and background working in the PR and marketing field, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. That passion was further kindled after I went to a party where I was surrounded by people in Bangkok’s art and creative scene. From that point on, I was determined to learn everything about fashion and eventually set foot on my own creative path. The rest is history.
The city of opportunities
I fell in love with New York when I went to travel there by myself. The trip inspired me to work hard at my marketing job back in Thailand so that I could save up for a fashion school. I later got accepted in FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York where I had to work part-time jobs while attending classes. For me, New York was the beginning. It was a place for me to find myself, a place full of opportunities to make my dreams come true.
The New York identity
I love the vibrant character of the city, especially the subway. Riding the subway, I would encounter people from all over the world and some of them would be dancing or playing an instrument. It was always such a fun scene down there and also very unexpected. Sometimes a homeless person would beg me for some change. Sometimes I even got stalked! Here in New York, you have to be mentally prepared before you step out of the house.
New York during Covid-19
It was a pretty dark time because pretty much everything was either cancelled or closed whether it’s bars, parties or concerts. The city was very quiet and it felt so hopeless at the time. Luckily, I had the opportunity to do some styling for Jackie Cox, one of the contestants on Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 12. I made her a pair of earrings that she wore on the show’s final episode and out to events. That gave me a boost because I feel like there’s always hope out there for me if I turn a crisis into an opportunity.
Becoming a stylist
I had my start in Bangkok where I assisted my friend who’s a fashion stylist before ending up in New York. A makeup artist friend asked me if I wanted to get involved with a test shoot for Thai model Piyawan “Gift” Chitsamran. I said yes, and that’s how I gradually learned the trade. Being an assistant allowed me to hone my skills, build connections, and learn from the industry’s pros.
I have worked with international publications like Paper Magazine, Harper Bazaar’s Brazil, VOGUE Taiwan, and many more. Working with different media outlets left me with a very good impression. People in the industry whether it’s the production team, young models, or photographers, they all make me want to improve myself and never stop learning my craft.
Working with an international crew
Everything is very organized when working with an international crew on a fashion shoot. Everybody knows their role and duty and respect each other. I feel very lucky to be working in that environment, which in turn contributes to the desired outcome. The team is diverse too, with members ranging from 20-50 years old. Everyone’s on the same level and driven by their passion. They don’t care about your age or your sexual orientation which really empowers me.
Everyday is a challenge
Sometimes what I’ve envisioned in my head doesn’t quite match the reality, so the challenge is to try to make it match. I know I’m still a newbie in the industry, so I want to support new talents. When I borrow clothes, I would focus on up and coming designers and shops, checking out their Instagram feeds to see what they’ve got in store. By using their clothes and products, they would get more exposure. It’s how we support one another. Challenge for me is an opportunity.
It’s this year’s fashion shoot in China Town for Harper’s Bazaar Thailand. The vibe is street style fused with both Western and Eastern elements. I was involved with the planning as well as producing and styling sides of it. I also got to work with people I know, so that was cool. I’m so proud that my work appears in a Thai magazine. Another dream achievement unlocked. Thanks to P’Ko from Harper’s Bazaar Thailand for giving me the opportunity.
I want to style for Rihanna because whatever she has on, she can always make it fun and chic. I want to also collaborate with photographer Steven Klein whose work is dark, cool, bold, and very sensual, and Björk because she’s the queen of style who has a unique way of blending art with her own identity.
Then and Now
Living in New York has shifted my perception of the world. I’m living in Brooklyn with friends in a shared house and my journey has led me to meet a lot of new people and have new experiences. For those who are still finding themselves, I want them to step out of their comfort zone and expand their horizons. Find something that will make you happy doing it and you’ll thrive. Nothing is easy, though, and you have to fight for it. I had to juggle school, a part-time job, and styling gigs.
“Because passion is the mechanism of my life”
Internship with Patti Wilson
I saw on her Instagram story that she was looking for an intern. After submitting my profile, they called me up for an interview and let me do a trial internship. In the end, she chose me as one of her assistants.
Working with a legend
I was super excited! The job required you to learn quickly from day one and use that experience to build on your future career. I really admire Patti Wilson and her work. She’s more of a traditional stylist, so everything is very much hands-on. She would flick through books for ideas and go shop-hopping for clothes. I like that she would be there to supervise everything from start to end. When I was out with her on one of the outings, I felt like the lead actress from ‘Devil Wears Prada’ (laughs).
It’s been almost three months working with Patti Wilson and I’ve learned so much about the industry. I’m happy to have made the decision to work in this line of work. This experience will definitely help me with my professional growth.
For Bank, the journey to chase his dreams doesn’t end here. His love and passion for fashion will continue to drive him forward in the city that he now calls home.
Follow his journey now at sutheeritt.com