Beam Ratchapol Ngaongam founded his knitwear brand, BULAN, to show the world what he can do. What started as a side project began to grow organically, leading to unexpected opportunities, including showcasing his collection in New York Fashion Week to being featured in Vogue.
Despite all of his success, Ngaongam stays true to his original values and goals—to create pieces that transcend fashion trends, emphasizing craftsmanship and longevity over fleeting fashion. Timid had the opportunity to talk to Ngaongam about his remarkable fashion journey and passion for knitwear design.
Beam Ratchapol Ngaongam: I learned how to knit for four and a half years in college. Everything I know about knitting, I learned from the Academy of Art [University]. I graduated at the end of 2019 and moved to New York in February 2020, a week before the lockdown.
I got an internship with Proenza Schouler during the pandemic, working from home for almost a year. I was trying to get a full-time job but at that time, nobody was hiring. Since I couldn't get one with Proenza, I left and moved on to Dion Lee as an intern. I couldn't get a full-time job there either, so I moved to Phillip Lam. In New York, part-time work is not sustainable. I got to a point where I thought, “Am I not good enough? Why are all my friends getting hired by companies?” But I was confident in my work, so I thought, “Let me show you what I can do. Let me start my own brand.”
I didn’t plan on doing New York Fashion Week at all. I just wanted to show what I can do so someone would hire me. I started it as a side project and for fun. I was hoping to make 20 pieces to sell on Instagram, and it just kept growing, and next thing I know, I was doing a pop-up shop. Then someone came in and told me that I needed to showcase my work at New York Fashion Week and then that happened. Nothing was planned. Everything was just one thing after another.
BRN: I need to be able to personally connect with the inspiration. Throughout school, we were taught how to conceptualize inspiration and pull things out from them. The collection that I just showed in New York was inspired by mental health, and I dedicated it to members of my family who struggle with mental health issues.
Because it's such a vague inspiration, it was kind of hard to pull design elements from it. I started with colors. Mental health institutions tend to use a lot of pink, so in my collection, you'll see a lot of pink. As for the silhouette, there are a lot of open holes to show how imperfect each and every one of us is. You can look fine on the outside but when you actually look closely, you will see the many imperfections.
BRN: When I started this, I didn't want to be just another trendy brand that comes and goes in one season. I want people to actually value the craftsmanship and the design in my work, rather than it being like, “That person was wearing it in SoHo so now I have to wear it.” I want people to think, “Wow, I see the craftsmanship and I value it. I want to wear it and keep it for the rest of my life.”
BRN: When I started this whole project, I was working with Phillip Lim. I thought, “What do I need to do in order for people to come to my brand so that I don't have to compete with those big brands?” The goal when I started my brand was to try to come up with something new to show people what knitwear can do.
BRN: I would say it's still a work in progress. It would probably come with my next collection that I'm dedicating to my mom. My mom means a lot to me. I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn’t for her.
BRN: As an artist, I feel like there's beauty in collaborating with another artist. I don't have a particular brand that I'm working with right now, but I would love to collaborate with Loewe or Jacquemus, or explore what else I can do with knitwear. It could be furniture, or something else. I just want to explore as many opportunities as I can.