The second season of the Vietnamese version of Project Runway wrapped up on Sunday, with the top prize going to amateur designer Ly Giam Tien. Project Runway is an American reality television series launched in 2004 that focuses on fashion design.
Jean Paul Cauvin, executive director of the French Atelier Chardon Savard Fashion School, came to Viet Nam to act as the show's adviser.
He spoke to Culture Vulture about the developing fashion industry in Viet Nam.
As you predicted, the top prize was awarded to designer Ly Giam Tien. What made you think he would win?
All contestants were very impressive, but the youngest, Tien, is the most outstanding. His story could inspire anyone. He has never studied fashion, but is very skilled in tailoring and cutting and is naturally endowed with fashion and creativity.
I wasn't surprised at all when Tien won.
What are Vietnamese designers' weaknesses compared to international designers?
The Vietnamese fashion market is "budding" but it is not yet in full bloom. This is the main "weakness" for fashion designers from Viet Nam. Plus there are few competitors on the Vietnamese fashion scene. From competition springs a natural emulation. Fashion customers also need to be educated.
As they get educated in fashion, fashion designers will become better. I think that the main concern for the future of fashion design in Viet Nam is keeping all this fashion activity "fun".
Fashion (as opposed to clothing) is a way of life; it is a form of art expressing itself through textile products which can change our daily life. A fashion piece is a piece of art to wear.
Adapting to a domestic market that still needs landmarks about fashion and fashion education is not easy for Vietnamese fashion designers.
I think that they lack, for the moment, the belief and the perspective that they could succeed outside their own country. They certainly need to get more familiar with designers coming from the four big fashion capitals of the world: Paris, which has been in first place until today, Milan, New York and London.
Another idea would be to create (but this requires funding) an international fashion week in Viet Nam, so that designers and the general public could experience more deeply the universe of international designers and be compared with them.
Their weakness comes from the existing market. If designers try to follow the trends, they will not set their own trends... And fashion designers should be trend-setters.
Copying others' designs is now a big concern in Viet Nam. In your opinion, what's the reason for this issue and how can we fix it?
Creativity has a rule, in art and in any other discipline. Do not copy. This rule applies to fashion design as it does in many other industries and creative fields. The temptation is to sell the same item, sometimes vaguely modified, because it's selling next door or in the next shop window.
But if creativity is favoured and nurtured, it should also be protected. Repetition has a limited value in time. Maybe the protection of creativity is a concept that has been a little bit forgotten, not only in Viet Nam but also in many other Asian countries and in the world. It is possible to evolve.
I also believe that the colonial history of Viet Nam left behind a good aspect: the French have been the most protective of copyrights in history. I believe that one of the reasons why Viet Nam is so sensitive to these issues is this French "heritage". I see it in many instances: the place of women in society today, the place of artists, the way we evaluate and give worth to art, etc. If our common heritage were highlighted, HCM City could become again the "Paris of the East". I believe that the potential is there for it. It will take time, but the world is changing at a fast pace and the moment is good.
What kind of education will the winner of Project Runway Vietnam 2014 get from Atelier Chardon Savard school?
The winner will get a scholarship for our fourth and final year of training, which we call "Createurs". During this year, the students are followed by a team of design, moulding, knitting and graphic design teachers and develop their own universe with specific features. This course also includes some fashion culture and a lot of personal development.
After this, they can access internships to finalise their fashion education within our network of prestigious partner companies. The big names of Paris-based fashion brands all participate in it and ordinarily call on our school to find interns. This is probably the best way for the 2014 Project Runway winner to enter the world of luxury fashion design. — VNS