Remodeling the traditional costume

February 12, 2008

Remodeling the traditional costume
First Lady of Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet wears an ao dai designed by Anh Thu in a reception to welcome US president George Bush at the APEC Summit in Hanoi  

Beauties and politicians wearing Anh Thu’s designs have helped this Vietnamese fashion designer create a new impression of the ao dai (traditional dress for Vietnamese women) for people abroad.

Anh Thu, first daughter of renowned ao dai designer Ngan An from northern Vietnam, has elevated the Vietnamese dress to a higher level.

Her fashionable remodeling of the traditional dress has helped beauty contestants win at international pageants.

The skillful designer’s work has also been admired more than once by visiting politicians and diplomats, including the Queen of Sweden.

Passion of a young girl

Thu’s talent for fashion design was first revealed when she designed out-fits for dolls at just twelve years old.

As the young daughter of an officer in Hanoi, Thu often went with her mother to her part time job at the Tan My tailor shop – a popular tailoring and embroidery shop on Hang Gai Street.

Wandering around waiting for her mother, the young girl was so enthralled by the cute dolls at the tailor’s, she decided to design new costumes for them.

The pretty dolls wearing dresses with flowers and glass beads attracted foreign visitors, and the business brought a little money to the family during a difficult period.

This was a significant milestone to being a renowned fashion designer.

“Throughout my career, the most important support has always come from my mother,” Thu said.

“She has always been by my side to offer sup-port and encouragement, especially when I showed my first collection.”

Thu’s first collection, named Trang thu (Autumn moon), was warmly received.

The ten ao dai were inspired by the brightness of the autumn moon and were expressed on local silver colored silks.

The young talent has bloomed since then, with several collections of ao dai presented abroad, including shows in Geneva, Switzerland.

Alluring beauties

The beauty Ngo Phuong Lan, who always shines as one of the most elegant models in students’ contests, always feels confident in one of Thu’s designs.

Ngo Phuong Lan at the Miss International Vietnamese Contest in the UK in ao dai dress designed by Anh Thu

She was wearing one of her ao dai when she claimed an international modeling title.

The Thu designed ao dai with a special lap helped Lan win second place at the qualifying round of the Miss International Vietnamese Contest in the UK in 2007.

Another dress from the Huyen thoai bien (Legend of the sea) collection helped Phuong Lan impress the organizers and photographers in the final round, which was held in Vietnam in the same year.

But Thu’s most impressive achievement was designing an ao dai in four days for Phuong Lan’s final day of the competition.

“I received her [Phuong Lan’s] call four days before the final night’s performance, when I was on a vacation with my family. She told me that she had no ao dai left for the show,” Thu said.

“The dress was inspired by the beauty of the lotus flower, which is considered to be the national flower, together with clumps of bamboo as a reminiscence of the contestants’ native land,” Thu explained.

“The dress was finished in a record time of four days and I had to fly to Nha Trang to give it to her.”

Honoring politicians

The Vietnamese traditional ao dai displays the elegance of all women.

Thu has proven this through her designs for both local and foreign women.

She presented two dresses to the Queen of Sweden on the royal’s visit to Vietnam with the king.

The former Vietnamese vice-president Truong My Hoa met Thu at the designer’s opening to congratulate her on the “Trang thu” collection and ordered a dress for herself.

“During the war, my nick name among the liberation forces was also Anh Thu.

I hope you can create new ao dai designs to show the beauty of the traditional costume to everyone during peace time,” the vice-president wrote in Thu’s guest book.

“I was more than happy to see the first lady wear my designs on television, with President Nguyen Minh Triet, to receive international leaders at the recent APEC Summit in Hanoi,” Thu said.

Thu will also release her collection Hoa gui loi yeu (Flowers’ cherishing message) this spring.

Thu always remembers her mother’s words, “Each ao dai is just like your child. You have to take care of even the smallest things. In design, every stitch is no less important than the entire dress.”

Reported by Minh Ngoc


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