To call Pattharapol and Lee Puengboonpra, the Bangkok-based mother-and-son duo known as Peepy & Mother Lee, Instagram influencers does not do them justice.
The two have become viral sensations thanks to their impeccably styled matching outfits and painstakingly produced photos that they post on their Instagram account, which since its inception about six years ago has amassed almost 130,000 followers.
Typical fashion influencers build brands of themselves by posing in front of a camera in cute clothes or against eye-catching scenery, but Pattharapol and Lee’s photos are more akin to mini dioramas.
Clad in coordinated outfits against backdrops that often pay homage to their Chinese heritage and their love for luxury labels, the two know how to strike a pose.
In spite of their flamboyant get-ups and the over-the-top vibe of their Instagram posts, Pattharapol and Lee are extremely media shy and unassuming, which becomes clear when we meet them for afternoon tea at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Bangkok.
Clad in matching outfits from Thai label Anchavika – which Pattharapol had custom made for him and his mother – accessorised with identical Louis Vuitton bags, the two are soft-spoken and reserved. This is their first interview with an international publication, despite various requests from media from all over the world.
”We started coordinating outfits more regularly after we launched our Instagram account,” says Pattharapol, an avid shopper and fashion aficionado who was an editor for 14 years and even founded his now-closed luxury magazine.
Although Pattharapol is the mastermind behind all the outfits they both wear, he recognises his mother’s influence on his love for fashion, which began when he was a young boy. “I used to look at my mother every day when she would get ready to go to work and I loved that,” he says.
The family has no connections to fashion (they’re involved in paint and chemical manufacturing, Pattharapol explains) but his mother has long been a collector of designer bags from brands such as Chanel while Pattharapol was an early fan of Louis Vuitton, the brand that first ignited his passion for luxury labels.
Looking at the elaborate settings and maximalist outfits in their pictures, you would think that the two travel around with a professional photo team and that each shoot requires a significant amount of preparation. In fact, most of the shoots happen in the privacy of the Puengboonpra mansion in Bangkok and the photos are taken by their domestic helpers, under the strict guidance of Pattharapol.
“It’s all in my head and every piece in the photos is from our collection,” explains Pattharapol. He buys every accessory in doubles, for him and his mother, and works with Thai designers to create matching outfits for them to wear out and about, and in their shoots.
Pattharapol, who is the middle of three children, started posting on Instagram on a whim and did not expect the positive reaction from fans, who started to pay tribute to them on social media by drawing their portraits or dressing up as Peepy & Mother Lee.
Their fan base spans the world, from China, Singapore and Hong Kong to the Middle East and Europe.
On a recent trip to Paris, groups of tourists asked them to take selfies outside luxury stores. On a previous visit to the city in 2015, Pattharapol recalls that he and his mother were trying to get inside department store Printemps, which was closed for a private event. It turned out that actress Kate Winslet was lighting up the Christmas windows but it did not take long for two sales assistants to recognise the duo and alert the security guards to let them in.
Pattharapol and Lee even have a signature pose, after fans who stopped them for selfies asked them to come up with one. Pattharapol, who has always been a fan of the film Home Alone, decided to re-create the iconic scene of actor Macaulay Culkin putting his hands on his face in the 1990 film.
The two have been approached by TV shows in Italy and the US; companies proposing collaborations for bags and sunglasses; and admirers asking them to create a line of products featuring their likeness. While they’re still considering various opportunities, they do not seem to be in a rush to turn their Instagram success into a moneymaking venture.
“I don’t even plan the shoots,” says Pattharapol. “We do it whenever we like it, it’s very spontaneous.”
Pattharapol says that he loves to style his mother with new items as well as pieces that she has accumulated for more than 30 years, from vintage Chanel bags to one-of-a-kind Thai jewellery.
So is there ever a casual day in their lives or is it always all-out glamour? “We do not always dress up,” says Pattharapol. “We also wear sporty items from Nike and Adidas and when we go and pray we do not dress like this. We make offerings to the gods every day.”
Pattharapol and Lee stand out from the myriad of influencers out there for their genuine love for fashion, which has brought them closer as mother and son, and for their authenticity, which clearly resonates with their fans.
The two do not have an agenda and are just expressing themselves through their fabulous clothes, one carefully crafted Instagram post after another.