Going global

July 4, 2008

Going global
Ao dai and jeans – an innovation of Vo Viet Chung who is trying to penetrate the international fashion market

A generation of young designers is confident that Vietnamese fashion will one day become popular abroad.

Young ao dai designer Thuan Viet says the country is yet to have “a fashion industry.”

“It will take at least 10-15 years before we develop that.”

Viet, who has seen his stylized ao dais – the graceful Vietnamese tunic – strutted on international catwalks, says the most important ingredient missing on the local fashion scene is the raw materials industry.

To make ao dais, he imports most other raw materials, except silk that is produced locally, from India and Hong Kong.

Viet says in developed fashion industries such as the US and France, designers and textile producers work closely to create new types of fabrics for different collections.

Vietnamese designers, however, do not have that luxury as local producers are “either not yet capable of producing new fabric on their own,” or refuse designers’ orders which are usually too small to fetch profits.

One of the few successful female designers, the French-educated Kieu Viet Lien, agrees.

Considering that other countries spent decades building their fashion industries, new players like Vietnam have no choice but to learn from their experiences, she says.

“The more we learn from them the better.”

Foreign fashion designers’ key to success, she says, is their professional marketing and brand name development.

Designers’ shops, for instance, are often located in “strategic” places to enhance public awareness and prestige.

Vietnamese designers are as creative and talented as their foreign counterparts, which she says raises hopes that the country can develop its distinctive fashion brands – as long as it sticks to what it sees as attractive.

“We should not pay too much attention to fashion trends,” Lien cautions.

“Fashion trends do not last.”

Local designers should “determine and maintain” their own styles to show the world something “outstanding and different.”

Designer Vo Viet Chung, the first Vietnamese designer to be featured on French channel Fashion TV, admits Vietnamese designers’ styles are not appropriate for practical use.

“Most designers, especially the young, like to create impressive collections that are suitable for the catwalk rather than street walk,” he says.

A good idea will be to infuse traditional elements into modern clothes to create a unique blend that will make Vietnamese designs distinct, he says.

Long gone is the time when the country was simply waiting for foreign brands to come and show what they had to offer, he says.

“Now is the time local designers should jump onto the scene.”

Chung and Viet both have plans to take their collections abroad this summer: the former to two international fashion shows in France and the US, and the later to Japanese.

Chung also plans to introduce a new line called RubyVo with which he aims to target the wider Asian market.

RubyVo clothes include distinctively East Asian designs ranging from the dragon to the lotus, and make use of regionally-produced fabrics.

For his part, Viet aims for much more than just building on the traditional dress.

“One day, when my ao dais are more known on the international market, I will start thinking about Western-style clothes.”

Reported by Phuong Anh

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