Warola Fashion + Vietnamese fashion designers

Exclusive Interview with Ninh Nguyen

Ninh, it was wonderful to meet you in New York at your installation during fashion week…. Tell me a little about where you are from and where you grew up.…

I was born in Paris and grew up in France for 9 years before I moved to Texas. It was a complete 360: from compact streets, small cars, humid grey weather and Colette to huge roads, vast lands, dry heat and Wal-Mart, respectively.

Where did your sense of style come from?

I acquired my sense of style through my mother, who always dressed me up for school (see photos).

How easy or difficult was it to transfers schools?

It was very frustrating going to school not knowing English, but as a kid it’s easy to catch up on a new language. I still speak fluent French to my parents and brothers, English to friends, and Vietnamese to my family.

I thought your name was Vietnamese… Where do you live now?

I am currently residing in NYC. I moved to the Big Apple just like how everyone moves to New York- to build dreams.

You didn’t always pursue fashion, did you?

I went to the University of Texas at Arlington and received my Bachelors in Biology and minor in Psychology. I initially took the medical route as both my parents are pharmacists. I had no passion in becoming a doctor but loved and was intrigued by the subject of psychology so much that I decided on becoming a social psychologist could be an option.

And then…?

A twist of fate changed these plans and I found myself applying to the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Why FIT and not the other fashion schools like Parsons, Otis or FIDM?

Because FIT was the only school in the States to have its own Menswear program. The other schools you would have to take two years of Fashion Design before you could switch over for another two years of Menswear. I had no intention on designing women’s clothes, so FIT was an easy answer.

So, how did you develop this passion for fashion?

Besides my mom structuring my sense of style, I’ve always had a keen eye for fashion. Plus I’ve always helped friends (girls) pick out their clothes or went shopping with them—which more or less says something about one’s influence in style.

Any other influences…?

Also, art runs in the family. My grandfather was an architect, my oldest brother is a photographer, and my other brother does 3D animation for games and movies.

How do your parents feel about all these non-medical careers?

My parents are proud of us, nonetheless, even though none of us followed the "traditional" route of becoming a doctor.

Does anything in particular inspire you as a designer?

To artists, anything can inspire their designs.

How about the collection I viewed in New York two weeks ago?

For this collection, I was greatly inspired by the concept of military units: army boots, aviator jacket, modern navy trench coat, police officer uniforms, etc. Since it is my first collection, I wanted to show people what I could do as a designer. I didn’t want to focus on just one concept, but unified the entire concept of military into one cohesive collection.

The addition of winter gloves (made out of either leather or shearling), zipper knitted neck bands, and the collaboration of amazing jewelry by Cat Varga brought the collection together.

This season we focused greatly on double-breasted jackets as well as woven dress shirts with unique collars, cuffs and plackets.

If you had to rate it?

My first collection, Autumn/Winter ‘11/12, was a success! We had a great team of talented individuals working together and making this show a reality. Hard work pays off, but this is only the beginning. There are many more hills to climb and rocks to overcome before I can reach the peak of the mountain.

Do you hold to any sort of philosophy that is clearly seen in your collections?

My philosophy in creating clothes starts with the right fit, draped by the right fabric, and finished with a touch of art.

How would you define someone’s personal style?

Your personal style is what makes you different and unique from everyone else. It is about what looks good on you and to you, how you combine fabrics while mixing color variations, and how you choose to portray yourself to the world around you.

So would you say clothes make the person?

The clothes make the person—yes. It raises your self-esteem and makes you feel good inside.

And aside from aesthetics…?

…aside from knowing what looks good, you have to feel comfortable in the clothes you wear. It’s not what you wear; it’s how you wear it.

How can you define the NINH kind of guy?

As mentioned, the NINH label is for the modest, confident man, the intellectual and cultured, the passionate and open-minded—a modern-day Renaissance man. He is well-groomed and open-minded, has proper etiquette, and respects others—the quintessential gentleman. Late twenties to early forties. Young at heart, yet sophisticated and very mature.

Would this also be your current client base?

The NINH collection attracts a specific client-base, which shows value in the designs as we do not extend to all fashion customers. Our customer is very fashionable but what separates him from the crowd is his sense of style. He knows he will not look like the guy next to him as his style will be unmatched.

Trends die as soon as they become mainstream. Fashion can be bought; style, one must possess. Our focus has always been the little details in the clothes that make the NINH line unique. The constructions to our designs make the NINH man feel supreme.

How do you perceive the fashion scene in New York?

NYC is a great city to be in for fashion. It is such a melting pot of different cultures and walks of life that I could easily get inspired by any random stranger. It’s a pleasant feeling to just sit at a local coffee shop in East Village or SoHo looking at the many diverse street trends walking back and forth…with a sketchbook in my hand and looking meticulously at every detail as if I were an eagle eyeing on a mouse! I love this city!

Future plans?

Any plans in the near future are to travel to London, Tokyo, Seoul, and Milan to acquire as much knowledge on the culture, clothes and fabric as I can, to become a better and more influential designer in the men’s scene.

Congratulations to you Ninh and much success!

Photos Copyright NINH.

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Exclusive Interview with Ninh Nguyen + Vietnamese fashion designers