Vietnamese designer rules fashion world
Ten years ago, fashion designer Ngo Thai Uyen burst on the trend-making scene winning an award at the Fashion Connections contest in Singapore.
Now a household name for fashion-conscious women, the former graphic designer is on top of the fashion world thanks to her keen ability to mix and match bold colours.
Uyen credits her success as a businesswoman and designer to following her dreams.
Getting a job in fashion wasn't an option for Uyen growing up.
"My grandparents, as well as my father, brother and my two aunts, are all artists. Thus, I was expected to become an artist too," Uyen said.
Her family told Uyen there was no future in designing clothing. In fact, Uyen said her family and friends didn't see the difference between a seamstress and the person who designed the garment.
Uyen decided to embrace her creativity and study graphic design at the College of Fine Arts In HCM City. In her second year, Uyen's parents moved from Vietnam to the United States.
Uyen saw this as her opportunity to find her own path and stayed in HCM City.
Looking for inspiration, Uyen entered a collection of garments for the Fashion Connections only one year later.
Uyen remembers the moment she realised designing clothing was more than just a hobby.
"It came upon me suddenly. I like to go out and discover new things. Also, I like to be left alone sometimes to engage in my creative process," she said.
"Fashion design brings me opportunities to go to many places and engage in different art forms to find inspiration for my work. It is those moments that help me to experience the best life has to offer."
Following a dream
|Fresh: Bold designs have raised Uyen to the forefront of fashion.
But Uyen quickly learned having a goal and achieving it weren't the same thing.
Wanting to continue creating original pieces, Uyen founded the Ngo Thai Uyen (NTU) Design Joint Stock Company in 2004.
Though no one disputed Uyen's talent as a designer, she was unable to launch an original collection immediately. Instead, her company designed scarves for US fashion house J Jill.
The thick scarves with their unique colours and patterns sold for US$108, with the label "Designed and made in Vietnam" proudly sewn on each piece.
After only one year, Uyen was forced to end her contract with J. Jill because Vietnamese silk producers were unable to reproduce her designs.
"It was difficult to make the scarves match my sample designs because silk woven in Vietnam often varies in colour from piece to piece. Most of the big producers refused to co-operate when they saw the patterns I wanted," she said.
Uyen learned a lot of important lessons from this first foray into the professional world of fashion design.
"In order to run a fashion business effectively, it's necessary to have professional designers, producers and support personnel. That's why to succeed long-term, we need to train our people, and that takes time," said Uyen.
Uyen was determined to make up for lost ground and immediately began designing her own line and garments for consumers she knew inside and out: Vietnamese trend-setters.
Uyen used her industry contacts as the lead designer for the ViKo Glowin Co and as an instructor at the Fine Arts Association to get investors to fund her label Natural Ngo Thai Uyen.
Soon enough, Uyen saw her hard work pay off.
Last year, NTU Design Joint Stock Company recorded a profit for the first time. Critics in the fashion world said her success can be attributed to the popularity of her living with Nature collection.
Uyen, the company's art and managing director, has even bigger plans for 2007. The next two collections Uyen plans to debut are called Green Life and Urban Life. The first is set to be released in April, followed by the second in August. She said these collections were designed to give businesswomen a fresh look.
"I know I am now on the right track, although my company didn't earn profits right away. My purpose is to create fashion products for Vietnamese people. But in the long run, I also want to complete a product from A to Z to provide it to the international markets," said Uyen.
Staying hot in the fashion world means a designer must have a strong work ethic, according to Uyen.
To stay competitive, Uyen said she used to spend 70% of her week at the office.
But she has learned not spend so much time away from home, now that Uyen has a son waiting for her.
Also, she keeps close ties with the artistic community and engages in different artistic activities in HCM City, despite the fact she had only 30% of her time spent designing for family and her own life.
"Now, I am busy preparing for an exhibition in Hanoi organised by the HCM City Fine Arts Association with 19 other artists in April," Uyen confided.
"Only when I have a set purpose, I can find time to draw again" she said.
Seemingly, joining other artistic activities is also a way to help Uyen find her new inspiration for the next collections.
Whether you see her newest collection, or maybe one of the many ads she stars in, you'll definitely see this fashionista make her brightly coloured mark, time and time again.
Fashion designer sets sights on Hue fest
Fashion designer Minh Hanh of HCM City will showcase her latest creations from June 12-20 during Hue Festival 2004 in the former imperial city.
"Hue’s court and folk architecture set against a beautiful rural background is a source of inspiration for my collection," Hanh said.
Her collection Return to Heaven was created especially for the festival.
"I’ve been captivated by the decorative and elegant and charming designs on the royal tombs and palaces built in Hue during the reign of kings under the Minh Mang and Thieu Tri," she said.
Most of the designs of her latest collection have been printed on silk, velvet, lace and tho cam (brocade) –all favourite fabrics of Hanh.
Hanh’s designs will be shown on a catwalk at the Kien Trung Palace on June 15, 17 and 19.
Hanh, manager of HCM City’s Fashion and Design Institute (Fadin), has taken part in the two previous festivals organised in Hue in 2000 and 2002.
Her designs have been highly acclaimed by domestic and foreign visitors to the festival.
Hanh, who is dedicated to creating uniquely Vietnamese fashion items, became the first Vietnamese to win an international fashion prize when her two designs–a brocade and a traditional Vietnamese dress–won the New Designer Award at the 1997 Makhuhari Grand Prix in Japan.
She has been invited to attend courses, fashion shows and exhibitions in more than 20 countries, including France, Sweden, Indonesia, the US and Japan.
Other respected designers from Ha Noi and HCM City will also take part in Hue Festival this year.
There will be a show of 600 ao dai (traditional long dress) created by 20 designers, and 100 professional and amateur models will wear 500 designs, collectively known as the Spring – Summer Week Collection, for the first time — VNS
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