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VN culture has a strong aesthetic: UK expert

Update: August, 09/2017 - 09:00
All in the cards: From the "Mysterious Tarot by Nguyễn Cẩm Nhung, which uses a combination of pleating, beading, printing and embroidery onto corsets, capes and skirts.
Viet Nam News

On the sidelines of the recently concluded Graduate Fashion Week that featured 21 collections by students of the Hà Nội-based London College for Design & Fashion (LCDF), Lê Hương spoke with UK-based educational consultant Douglas G.M MacLennan, who has worked with the college for many years.

 Can you give us a brief history of fashion training in the UK?

Expert: Douglas MacLennan, an education consultant from the UK. VNS Photo Lê Hương

Fashion was introduced into the UK higher Education system in 1932, initially directed by Fine Artists or “Embroidresses”. Until the early 1960’s, designers trained by the early UK Fashion educational system experienced initial resistance to being accepted by the commercial fashion industry, as they were either artists who could draw delightful pictures, but who did not know how to realise them, or technologists who could construct clothing, but who were not aesthetically sensitive to future design trends.

This gradually changed with the appointment of successful graduate practitioners of fashion to direct UK Higher Education in Fashion. They re-structured the curricula based on their working experience to focus on easing the transition of the student into the fashion workplace as a functioning designer, removing any topic that was superfluous or did not assist the student in being able to command respect.

Fashion training is now acknowledged as being the most demanding of any UK University programme of study, as the study encompasses both hand drawn skills and contemporary digital technologies.

How have you co-operated with the LCDF?

A design from collection "Good luck Charms" by Nguyễn Nhật Quỳnh.

I have been associated for 45 years with Higher Education in Design in the UK. Over the last 15 years, I have done a lot of work with international universities. The one thing that I am most passionate about is fashion. I’ve been reviewing the curriculum and working closely with the LCDF to moving the programme forward.

I mean lots of the points that were raised today, for instance, that it would be useful for a college graduate to have management skills, but it’s a two year programme. What to put in, what to take out, is already demanding, but there are thoughts of doing a foundation programme first, so they come in with a high level of  skills and also looking at it being a Bachelor of Arts programme that should be given an additional year. In think in two years, they do an amazing set of jobs.

I’m 69, I’m still learning.

Looking at the designs of the students today, what do you think about their capabilities?

- I think the thing there was an emphasis this year on the textiles and I genuinely think that were some absolutely fabulous textiles.

It’s the textile that attracts and drives the fashion forward. You don’t really see the garments copied but you may see the textiles copied.  And I think there’s also one or two connections here. Like the “Harajuki”, which has a commercial constraint (It’s an expensive level of the market), but you know exactly who’s going to wear it. I think there was the girl doing the 1970s style, again, you know who are going to wear the designs when you look at the collection. The test is in one minute 20 seconds, without telling anyone, does the audience understand what it is, and would you actually wear it.

I’ve seen 50 per cent of the collections prior to this, and six outfits have been created. Every student has something to actually offer. The most important thing though is, what have they learnt from producing the collection. That is the test of a real designer.

Sometimes you go to the catwalks. The catwalk is about creating attention. UK, designers aren’t big brands. That’s the one way they can get public’s attention. They don’t expect you to wear it, but it is attractive to the press. It amuses the public and it puts into the mind of the public, the name of the designer.

For some reasons, they know the name they don’t always know why. That’s what I actually am seeing here. I’m seeing students that are going to move forward, add on those skills, but what they have got is a broad base of knowledge and learning, they have been undertaking research, in depth and the process of producing sometimes for them is perhaps a little more successful or less so, but they’ve learnt from it. And that’s the way they move forward.

So what do you think about the future of Vietnamese fashion sector?

Local inspiration" A dress by Vũ Tường Vi, inspired by the indigenous Vietnamese Mother Goddess.

I’m very excited. I first came to VN as a tourist I think in 2000. And one thing I identified is that the Vietnamese culture has quite a strong aesthetic. Some cultures have, some cultures don’t. Just even going into coffee shops and restaurants, there’s a lovely aesthetic… that shows an understanding of design. I look at young emerging local designers and there is a very nice silhouette line. Often it’s maybe for a professional woman to actually wear. You’ve got the manufacturing support that you can produce to a very high level. And I think it’s now about exposure to outside of Việt Nam and I would love to think that the Vietnamese government, like China, actually supports designers. Because it really does matter. How do you make something different, how do you sell against competitors by giving something that people don’t know they want but they want it when they see it. You just make sure by good design that is better than your competitor. — VNS

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