Vu Ta Linh, 26, is one of three fashion designers from Viet Nam who topped the Star Creation 2013 competition Cam Hung Chau A (InspirAsian), which took place in Singapore on May 13. His collection was inspired by the beautiful curved lines of SaPa's terraced rice fields. He shares with An Vu his experiences in fashion and future plans.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you choose SaPa out of all the beautiful and inspiring places in the country to base your collection on?
I have seen heaps of amazing places all around the world in terms of architecture, nature and even technology. But to enter this competition, I had to present an idea originating from our country.
I carried out research on the internet, but found no inspiration. Then I began foraging through the images stored on my personal computer and saw a folder named "Terrace". I made up my mind to use those captivating wavy lines as the major theme for my collection, showing the traditional side of the country to the viewers of the Audi Star Creation 2013 contest.
Inner Sanctum: How did you feel when you found out you were one of three contestants to top the competition?
I felt extremely happy and smiled back at the audience as I returned to the stage, where they gave me a huge round of applause. Then it did not matter which position I was in among the top three - although in Singapore, there is a rule that the first person to be called out to the stage is the winner, and that was me!
After that, when I was interviewed about my victory, I could not help myself from voicing my appreciation and pride in my country, which I find an endless source of inspiration.
Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us about the challenges you faced during the contest?
There were many difficulties, as it was a huge contest. This was the first time I took part in an international contest, and that pushed me to try harder, since this was not just an individual matter, but a contest in which I represented the fashion industry.
The tight schedule was indeed a challenge, since I also have my own business as a designer for a Ha Noi-based fashion company. I had to divide my time and could not focus entirely on my collection. It was really terrible!
During that time, I had a subordinate who assisted me in my work, but then a new pressure came up: when you work with a partner, you need time to adapt to him. You need to find out his perspective on life; it's not just simply talking and working. When you do something wrong, you have to redo it, and you have to try to avoid making mistakes because you're not the only one affected. While you do your job, you have to pay attention to the subordinate's work too. You feel stressed and overworked as a result.
Inner Sanctum: I must say you seem passionate about the natural beauty of fabric. Your designs are not too opulent, like those of other fashion designers. Many say, "Simplicity is the best". Do you think that is the reason for your victory?
It is true people tend to think simplicity is the best. But it depends on how people feel about ‘Simplicity' and ‘Beauty'. I admit the clothes in my collection have simple shapes, but they're not monotonous at all. I try to focus on creating new materials from the unlimited resource of recycled materials. I aimed to use plain materials to impress and attract people and I think I was successful.
Inner Sanctum: You say that you applied many traditional handicraft methods to your products. Could you tell us more about that?
There are many traditional handicraft methods in the world and each designer uses his or her own to make a different product.
For this collection, I used cotton stitching to create the necessary thickness but also give the material softness and warmth. I also used backstitching on the same material but in different places, so that the fabric would be interesting to touch. I patched various materials together, including hand-made silk dyed by tying small stones to the fabric to make a spotted pattern.
Inner Sanctum: It seems like natural and elegant beauty is the main theme of your collection. Do you intend to pursue this subject in the years to come?
Most of my collections share the same philosophy on materials. I always combine old and new, thick and thin, rough and smooth materials together for the best feeling. I especially love the eco-friendly fashion brand Eco. In times of materials shortage like today, combining materials helps reduce the cost. I also focus on working with old materials, making them as valuable and unique as expensive ones.
Inner Sanctum: As a young and passionate designer, what do you think Vietnamese designers should do to catch up with international ones?
There are heaps of things to do before we can reach the development level of world fashion. International designers are much more experienced and developed technologically than us. Their mindset and lifestyle earned them success. However, it is that difference that makes us special. In my opinion, we do not have to walk the same line, but can take another path paralleling theirs.
In Asia, there are also a lot of fashion brands and designers famous for their standing like Kenzo, Yohji Yamamoto and Alexander Wang.
Inner Sanctum: Could you share with us what happened after the competition?
I learnt a lot from the other contestants, from the way they included cultural messages in their fashion designs to their open-minded lifestyle and the way they operated.
Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us more about your future plans as a fashion designer?
Well, I will return to Singapore for a one-year internship with the famous fashion brand FJ Benjamin and get ready for the debut of Audi's fashion carnival collection in 2014. — VNS