History of Vietnamese in the fashion and modeling industry

March 20, 2007

Milestones that occured:

Chloe Dao

After a long journey of ten months, Chloe Dao emerged on March 8, 2006 as the winner of Bravo’s Emmy nominated Project Runway 2.   She competed against 15 designers and was among the three finalists to showcase their fall 2006 collection at New York’s Fashion Week at Seventh on Sixth.  Dao won the hearts of America with her mild honest demeanor but won the votes of judges Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and special guest judge Debra Messing with her consistent display of technical skills, business savvy and creative talent.  As the winner of PR2, she received $100.000 seed money to use toward her design business, a 2007 Saturn Sky Roadster, a spread in Elle magazine, and a mentorship with Banana Republic.

Her win caused a media frenzy, and “Chloe Dao” quickly became a household name.  Dao was featured on NBC’s Today and Access Hollywood, CNN’s American Morning, ABC’s The View and E!’s Inside EditionMajor national and international magazines such as People, Time, US Weekly, Forbes, Forbes Asia, Star, WWD, and New York Times covered this success story of an immigrant living out her American dream.  After the media frenzy waned, invitations came flooding in for Dao to share her inspirational story.  She was the keynote speaker at Houston Community College’s Class of 2006 Commencement and spoke in front of 20,000 graduates and guests.  She was a panelist at a Women’s Leadership conference for V.A.N.G. in San Francisco discussing her experience as an Asian American woman in the workforce.  News of Dao’s accomplishments reached the White House, and she was honored with an invitation to a special conference celebrating Asian American Heritage month with President Bush.

Dao’s modest immigrant upbringing has kept her grounded despite her new found celebrity status.  She emigrated from Pakse, Laos in 1979 with her parents, Thu Thien Dao and Hue Thuc Luong, and her 7 sisters to the U.S. and settled in Houston, Texas.  All the sisters were encouraged to study hard and pursue careers in medicine or law, although Dao was never interested in either.  Her passion for design and fashion were sparked at the age of 10 when she saw her first episode of CNN’s Style with Elsa Klensch.  The passion grew into a career choice, and years later Dao graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a patternmaking degree.  After graduation, she honed her design and patternmaking skills at Finity, Melinda Eng, and Gregory Parkinson.  Her business savvy came naturally since both parents were entrepreneurs.  Internationally renowned buying office, Catherine Dietlein taught Dao the art of buying and merchandising. Dao left New York in the summer of 2000 a seasoned industry professional and opened up Lot 8, named after the eight Dao sisters.

Even with the win of PR2, Dao continues to develop and grow her boutique’s business in Houston.  Lot 8 now offers a full service hair salon located in the back of the boutique, and has an exclusive menswear line Adam’s Apple. She hopes to open stores in other cities such at New York and Los Angeles.  Her collection is now available through online shopping at www.lot8online.com.  

Chloe Dao appears on the runway during the final episode of Project Runway on Friday Feb.10, 2006. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

For Vietnamese Immigrant, Fashion Design Is American Dream By Lauren Monsen
by SOPnewswire
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Washington — When members of a Vietnamese immigrant family settled in Houston in 1979, they were seeking a better life than the one they had left behind, just like countless immigrants who preceded them to the United States.

The Dao family, which had crossed from Vietnam into neighboring Laos and endured a Laotian prison camp to reach the United States, viewed education as the portal to success in its adopted country.  The hardworking parents who headed the Dao family raised their eight daughters to aim high, both academically and professionally.

Chloe Dao, the sixth daughter, recalled that she and her sisters were steered by their parents toward careers in medicine or law. But at an early age, Dao developed an interest in fashion design, a field that her parents viewed skeptically.  The glamorous but fiercely competitive world of high fashion is powerfully attractive to many clothes-obsessed young girls; in the 1980s the young newcomer to Houston found the lure irresistible.

After discovering CNN’s weekly television program Style With Elsa Klensch, Dao became mesmerized by the dazzling couture creations on the runways of New York, Paris, London and Milan, Italy. Her parents viewed her interest as a diversion rather than a potential vocation, but Dao had other ideas.

After graduating from secondary school, she enrolled in the business-marketing program at the University of Houston and endured what she describes as 18 months of acute boredom. Dao abandoned marketing in favor of the design program at Houston Community College, much to the dismay of her parents and siblings.

With just one semester of design classes in Houston, she traveled to New York and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She completed an associate’s degree in patternmaking in 1994 and then worked her way through a series of jobs in the fashion industry.  She learned from seasoned professionals about the details and techniques of haute couture and, perhaps as important, learned to run a small business.

Dao returned to Houston, where she began to design her own line of clothing and made plans to open her own boutique, having demonstrated to herself and to her family she had the requisite talent, determination and discipline to succeed in a relentlessly cutthroat profession. Her boutique — named “Lot 8” for the eight Dao sisters — opened in 2000 with the full support of her family. The shop quickly gained popularity.


In 2005, Dao entered a competition sponsored by the cable television channel Bravo.  The contest, televised as Project Runway, was hosted by model Heidi Klum and featured the creations of 16 young designers. Each week their efforts were judged by Klum and other fashion experts, with the least successful designers eliminated each week until only three contenders remained. Those three faced off once again during New York Fashion Week in February to determine the winner of Project Runway.

Throughout the competition, Dao earned praise for sophisticated creations that blended an urban sensibility with fluid, graceful lines.  Her expert draping and tailoring drew raves from the judges, and the drama of the competition kept viewers riveted. Through it all, Dao remained unflappable, good-naturedly sparring with her fellow contestants as she continued to win fans with her polished daytime ensembles and her sinuous evening gowns.

As a finalist, Dao competed for a new car and $100,000 in seed money to develop her own line of clothing.  In addition, the winner’s designs would appear in an issue of ELLE magazine, providing invaluable publicity for an ambitious young entrepreneur.

Once the contestants had sent their models down the runway for one final turn, the judges conferred and delivered their final decision: After 13 weeks, Dao was the winner of Project Runway.

For Dao, the benefits of victory likely will be significant.  The media attention is fueling consumer demand for her clothing, her business is poised to expand beyond its Houston base, and Dao now fields interview requests as she juggles the demands of a thriving fashion enterprise.

Dao’s new status is already reflected in the growth of Lot 8.  “The boutique doubled in size, and now includes a hair salon,” she told the Washington File in a June 15 interview.  “We are also opening our online boutique at the end of June,” she said, adding, “I plan to open a few more Lot 8 boutiques/salons around the country in the next couple of years.”

Asked to describe her approach to fashion, Dao said: “My design philosophy is ‘classic trendy.’  I like to make clothes that make a woman look and feel modern, but the clothes will never be dated or go out of style.”  The secret to her label’s appeal is that her designs are “young, sexy, and modern, yet timeless,” she said.

Being formally recognized by her peers in the fashion industry and singled out as a rising talent in her field is a compelling validation of Dao’s lifelong dream of a fashion career.  That dream she embraced as a child, in swirling visions of silk chiffon, is now her daily existence.

Behind the dream job in fashion is the reality of a gifted designer whose work ethic came straight from her immigrant parents: in short, a classic American success story, with a very stylish twist.

Monica Tran

The Business of Áo Dài : Lecture by Monica Tran

Owner of Trust Fund Baby Boutique, fashion designer and businesswoman Monica Tran will address the fashion industry, and how she incorporated the áo dài into her mainstream designs.

Download the Original size

A Trust Fund Baby You'll Admire

Trust Fund Baby’s NoLita location

A Trust Fund Baby You’ll Admire

Why go all the way to New York for what you can get in one quick ride down the Garden State?

Making the move from Manhattan’s trendy NoLita neighborhood to The Pier Shops at Caesars might seem like a risky venture. But for Monica Tran, former Armani merchandiser and owner of the upscale family boutique Trust Fund Baby, the risk is worth taking. The original TFB opened on Elizabeth Street in New York in Oct. 2004, and after only two years of wild success, Tran decided to branch out (to A.C., Scottsdale and possibly London and Hong Kong).

The store is known for selling fashions made of the finest fabric for everyone in the family. Customers are sure to be enchanted with the exquisite selection and the “cluttered, eclectic” atmosphere that reveals treasure-upon-treasure to the dedicated seeker decorated with echoes of the Vietnam seaside of Tran’s childhood. And while most high-end stores look down on sticky-fingered children, Tran welcomes them with snack-sized candy bars and juice boxes.

Finally, the TFB’s homage to its new home, they’re carrying a custom scent called Garden State. The fragrance line mixes blueberries (NJ’s state fruit) with cassis, grape, and violet sage. So be a Jersey Girl for a day and head to the Piers.

Taryn Ros

Dr. Taryn Rose
  Taryn Rose changed the footwear industry in 1998 by creating a line of luxury shoes that are as fashionable as they are functional. Her idea of being well dressed with a sense of well being touched a nerve with women from coast-to coast, creating a dedicated following for her footwear collection.

After her first year of business, she opened a boutique in Beverly Hills, California in 1999. Women traveled from as far as New Hampshire and purchased up to 20 pairs of shoes before returning home. This inspired Rose to immediately open a second boutique in New York and by 2002, opened a third in San Jose, California. Most recently adding a fourth store at the Forum Shops in Las Vegas.

Formally trained as an orthopedic surgeon, Rose saw patients with many serious foot problems that were caused by fashion footwear, high heels and pointed toes. Being a lover of beautiful footwear, her own feet ached after 14-hour days in shoes with three-inch heels.

With her own appreciation of designer goods, Rose created her collection using the most luxurious materials available and crafted the line to be worn with the finest clothing. The shoes are made by highly skilled artisans in Italy, with almost three hours of hand labor in each pair.

In fall 2003, Rose launched a complete men’s collection that spans from dress to casual. Celebrated by retailers, the men’s collection is carried in select specialty stores and Taryn Rose Boutiques.

Rose has been featured on CNN News Night with Aaron Brown, Oprah, Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer, Discovery Channel’s Berman and Berman, National Public Radio All Things Considered, Fine Living Network’s Radical Sabbatical, Later Today Show and news shows across the country. Recent editorial profiles include Fast Company, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, Entrepreneur and Los Angeles Times Magazine. Fashion editorials include Instyle, O Magazine, Vanity Fair, WWD, Cargo, Vitals, Entertainment Weekly, LA Magazine, Shape and Real Simple.

In addition to earning her medical degree from University of California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, Taryn Rose has been recognized for her numerous honors: Women’s President’s Organization and Fast Company magazine ranked her first in a new entrepreneurial competition of distinction, “25 Women Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing The Game” (2005). New York Moves magazine recognized her as one of the most powerful women in New York City (2005), distinguished role model and entrepreneur in the city of Los Angeles during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (2003); recognized by the Women’s Venture Fund as an outstanding entrepreneur during the Highest Leaf Awards in New York (2003), and by the Small Business Administration as one of four outstanding women entrepreneurs honored during the 50th Anniversary of the SBA in Washington DC 2003).

Close to her heart, Rose regularly participates in projects to support the Breast Cancer Research Center in New York City, The Joyce Eisenberg Keefer Breast Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Aids Project Los Angeles and the Clothes Off Our Back Organization.

Profiles on some key icons

the history of the ao dai in hollywood and fashion

how we have contributed as a whole to the APA community and to the mainstream as a whole.


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