BY NHIEN NGUYEN
The International Examiner interviews Tuan for Le Soleil before the premiere of his fashion line on Nov. 4 at the Arts Etc. Event 2006. He talks about the challenges of breaking into the fashion world, what inspires him and his thoughts about the hit reality TV show, “Project Runway.”
When did you come to America?
• I came to America in 1992 with my single mother Nhung To and my sister Hang Nguyen.
Have you always been interested in fashion?
• I have been interested in fashion since I was nine. I was surrounded by my creative family, who are all artists. My father, Van Khanh, was a well known photographer. My sister and mentor Thien Nga is a great tailor and owned a boutique. She is very fashionable and a smart business woman. Being in that environment inspired me to create my collection.
Do you have specific fashion designers that inspire you?
• I have a lot of respect for Tom Ford. He is the most influential designer of the last decade. Tom Ford has brought the glamour back into fashion. He understands the woman’s body. I admire his risk-taking and his drive.
Are you a fan of Project Runway?
• In my opinion, the high note of Project Runway is that it has let the viewers get the little taste of how the fashion world works. The show has inspired many fashion students. There’s been a major boom in fashion education since the show started. The low note for Project Runway is like any other reality TV. There is trash-talking and drama. To me, that’s not the way to become a great designer. I believe that, as a true artist, you don’t have to be on reality TV and play some character to get some recognition or fame.
Do you think Season 2 winner Chloe Dao (who is Vietnamese) will help other Vietnamese and Asians become successful in the fashion world?
• I was in Asia working my collection when Chloe Dao won Season 2. I was very happy for Chloe because they chose her for her talent and skills, not because of her race. In this fashion world, we are very multi-cultured and open-minded. We have many talented Asian designers who have made their big marks such as Vera Wang, Derek Lam, Doo Ri, Vivienne Tam, Thakoon, just to name a few. To be successful in the fashion world, this is what it takes — creativity, business sense, drive, ambition, hard work, dedication and a bit of luck. You can achieve your dreams, regardless of where you come from. Always dream big and believe in yourself.
What’s been the hardest part about starting your own line?
• I have started out a line called Le Soleil. The hardest part about this ambitious project is making sure the end product is what I had envisioned. There is a lot more to creating a line than sketching and designing. I take on many roles, spend significant time on paperwork, managing people, shipping, spending times in factories, mailing catalogs (look books), negotiating with people that don’t speak your language. From finding the inspiration and finest fabrics, creating the pieces, and to the runway, I had to oversee every step. I styled and photographed all the pictures for the Le Soleil catalog and ad campaign. Seeing the fruit of my labor, though, is truly satisfying.
Does your cultural background influence your designs? If so, how?
• My cultural background plays a big role in Le Soleil when it comes to designs and fabrics. Asia is famous for silk. When creating this line, I bought the fabrics straight from a premium silk chiffon factory that produces silk using only natural colors. Color is another Asian influence. Asia is known for their use of color in everything. For my Spring ‘07 line, I traveled to China, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam to find these inspirations and gave birth to Le Soleil. Le Soleil is about living life — color is a great metaphor for life. I use vibrant colors and delicate fabrics in my line to express this point of view.
Do you have a certain philosophy when it comes to designing clothes?
• My philosophy when it comes to designing clothes is that I would ask myself, my friends and family three questions: 1) Is it marketable? 2) Is it wearable? 3) Is it affordable? If all those questions are “yes,” then I will produce it.
In order to design clothes for women and men, you need to understand their body — what looks good on each individual’s body type, what they need to hide and what needs to be shown. I grew up with one older brother, three older sisters and my mom, who have all been into fashion. So I know what women and men want when it comes to clothes.
What is your long-term goal?
• My long-term goal is to continue to do what I love most and that is fashion – make a household name for myself. I’m here to stay in this business. I will head back to Asia on Nov. 22 to discuss and sign contracts with some of the investors of Le Soleil. Le Soleil will have its first store in the United States and Vietnam and eventually throughout Asia. I will take it one step at a time, slowly and surely.