On a trip to Bangkok in 1989, my husband and I were strolling around in the Oriental Hotel and stopped in front of a boutique with the most colorful, feminine Thai silk dresses on display.
My husband said I must go in and try on a dress, but I hesitated as I felt that, unlike a typical Thai woman, I didn’t have the requisite slim waist that suited such an outfit. He still convinced me it was worth taking a look inside the shop, and so we did.
There were so many beautiful dresses and in a rainbow of colours. Nevertheless, I decided to try on a few and, to my delight, they actually fitted me. It turned out that Khanitha, the name of the designer and shop owner, had European sizes. It was hard to choose between all these beautiful outfits, but I selected a few dresses.
As I was trying on the clothes, my husband asked the sales woman for the owner, and a few minutes later he was on the phone with Khun Khanitha herself. This resulted in a meeting the next day at her office on Suriwongse Road. I recall walking into this combined office and shop on thick elegant wall-to- wall carpeting. Like everything else, it was luxurious. Khanitha appeared, a friendly woman with a soft voice and sharp brain. And before I knew it, I had become her wholesaler/agent for Khanitha Design in Switzerland. My husband was happy, and I was overwhelmed and wondering how it would work out. I had experience with importing garments from Sweden to Switzerland and this was potentially similar, including the fact that deliveries would never arrive on time.
Never in my life did I believe the collection would arrive on that day, but it did. During the next 10 years I successfully imported her garments, and not one delivery came too late or was wrong in any detail. This shows that this lady knows what she is doing. We enjoyed great cooperation over that period, we got to know each other well and became good friends. To this day, we stay in contact and I continue to follow her incredible life, through its ups and downs, though mostly ups.
Khanitha is best known in Bangkok as the owner of several restaurants, though she also has two river cruisers. So, how did she go from being a successful fashion designer and owner of seven boutiques, a sewing factory with more than 400 employers, to become a restaurant owner?
Once Khanitha’s ex-husband announced he was giving up his jewelry business to become active partner in the company, Khanitha decided to step away. Not long after he brand Khanitha Thai Silk disappeared from the market and unfortunately, I lost my business in Switzerland.
For those who know Khanitha, it was clear that she would not just sit back and feel sorry for herself. As expected, she soon launched a restaurant, even though she had no previous F&B experience. But using her mother’s recipes, she believed the venture couldn’t go wrong. And she was right.
It didn’t take long for her to receive her first award forgenuine, well-cooked Thai food. This restaurant was soon followed by more. On busy Sathorn Road, she took over a huge restaurant that had never really attracted enough customers, redecorated it, employed new staff, added a collection of paintings from a monk and opened for business. Of course, it became a great success. Nowadays this 250-seat restaurant is almost always fully booked, especially at festive celebrations like Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
More restaurants followed, all successful and busy from the first day.
How does she do it? Khanitha is a born business woman and is dedicated to everything she does. Taking big loans from the banks is not her way; she prefers to pay cash up front. She is smart, she thinks before she goes ahead and she has a great reputation, is honest, and is living testimony to the path to wealth and success.
A while back, she decided to build a river cruiser capable of preparing all the dishes on board. Today she owns two such boats. Based outside her restaurant at Asiatique, they take guests on a two-hour ride up and down the Chao Phraya River.
One menu is offered and includes many delicious dishes, all served in a beautiful way. The impressive wine list on board is the same as in the restaurants, with bottles from France and the New World.
Her latest project is a restaurant at Iconsiam. Here she negotiated long and hard before getting the right spot on the 4th floor. Elegantly decorated, it has a terrace with magnificent views over the river.
All the vegetables, fruits and spices (fresh herbs) served in her restaurants are grown in her estate in Khao Yai, and delivered to her outlets weekly.
When not working, which is seldom, Khanitha is a dedicated grandmother, a warm hearted mother, a sister and sometimes a golfer. Occasionally you get lucky and see her in one of the restaurants, and she’s always ready for a chat.
One thing is for sure, whatever this lady does, it turns out well. That the name Khanitha features prominently on the Bangkok map is no real surprise. She’s a force to be reckoned with.