By Libby Callaway
He may be a darling of the New York fashion world, but designer Thakoon Panichgul is a Midwestern boy at heart. "Things move a little slower in Omaha," he says of his childhood home in Nebraska. "The people are so friendly, so laid-back." Panichgul moved there from Thailand (where he was born) in 1985, when he was 11 and "didn't speak a lick of English"; he later relocated to New York City, where he worked as a fashion writer for Harper's Bazaar before launching his own line, Thakoon, in 2004. While Panichgul's Corn Belt upbringing may have given his business a populist bent (he's created best-selling collections for Gap and Target, after all), signature Thakoon designs- finely tailored yet flirty pieces in such fabrics as silk organza and taffeta - are indisputably high-fashion, with clients including Marion Cotillard and Michelle Obama. Recently, Panichgul added jewelry to his repertoire by becoming creative director of Tasaki, infusing the Japanese label's traditional pearl pieces with a contemporary edge. When the glamor of his jet-setting lifestyle becomes overwhelming, Panichgul retreats to the wide-open spaces and local haunts of Omaha. "Sometimes you forget how to be creative," he says, "but if you go to a place that's memorable to you, you're able to get it back." Here, where he goes to recharge.