Viet Nam News
By An Phương
One of the top luxury designers in Việt Nam, Luis Antonio Torres, believes the country could become Southeast Asia’s biggest fashion hub.
Torres, who wants to market his Vietnamese luxury brand globally, was born in the US and first came to Việt Nam 17 years ago on a business trip to do garment outsourcing and resourcing for an apparel manufacturing company.
“It was a business decision to later quit my job and start my own career in fashion in HCM City. The city has major potential to develop in the way China and Thailand have,” he told Việt Nam News.
“Việt Nam was a pioneering fashion market back then and it remains so now,” he said, adding that his background in fashion manufacturing has given him an advantage in the local fashion industry.
“My own brand, which was recently rebranded as Antonio de Torres, sells bespoke and ready-to-wear menswear.”
Rooted in the Asian culture, many Vietnamese men do not feel the need to dress up, even when their partners look like a billboard model, Torres noted.
However, Việt Nam is a fast-changing country, and wealthy, successful businessmen are aware that social gatherings require formal dress.
Torres is there to help them shine.
“We have ’elegantly’ educated men and emphasised how important it can be to dress up!” he said, adding that there are many ways to wear a suit or a lightweight blazer.
“It is important to ask customers some questions about their lifestyle, career and travel habits to make them a perfect outfit,” he said, adding that he pays extra attention to fabrics because of the hot, humid weather.
“Quality is key,” he said.
“Most luxury brands do not sell quality, but sell brand names with great designs on great fabrics at decent quality. That is not luxury.
“The dynamic of luxury has changed, and what I know about luxury is that it should be something that is not easily obtainable.”
With that in mind, Torres aims to educate consumers that “quality is the starting place of luxury”.
“And bespoke is the ultimate in personalised luxury,” he said.
Torres added that most luxury brands in Việt Nam only deliver made-to-measure menswear, not bespoke clothing tailored to specific customers.
His clothing distinguishes him from other brands.
For bespoke, about two to three months are required to deliver the final product and the designer has to go through different stages of design with his or her clients.
For Torres, he sits with clients to brainstorm outfit ideas and he measures, makes patterns, has the customer try on clothing, and then makes a sample for correct drape. After those steps, there are still many fittings.
Torres has two branches, one in HCM City and another in Hà Nội. Though they are both Vietnamese, consumer behaviour in each city is different.
Fashionable future: Torres, who wants to market his Vietnamese luxury brand globally.
HCM City and Hà Nội have two distinct fashion DNAs.
“While most Hanoian men are put together, sophisticated and educated in terms of fashion and care about products, Saigonese guys are typically casual, conservative yet playful, and quick in making fashion purchases,” he said.
Each style has its own advantages and disadvantages, which affected Torres’s decision to launch his flagship store in Hà Nội and introduce more collections in HCM City.
In addition to his brand, he runs a trading business called Golden Dragon where he helps manufacture fashion pieces for high-end brands around the world.
“Both businesses bring a lot of challenges, but I have a ‘garment disease’ that makes me enjoy my work. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.
“Each business has its own dynamic. While I get to work with the best buyers and designers in the trading business, I deal with customers directly as they come to my brand. I’ve gained a lot of insights and seen the full circle of the fashion industry,” he added.
For his next venture, Torres will launch a women’s collection and expand his brand to the global market, including Hong Kong and Thailand.
“I want my brand to be the first menswear brand from Việt Nam to go overseas and to really do it correctly,” he said, adding that the country has the potential to be the biggest fashion hub in Southeast Asia.
“HCM City in particular and Việt Nam in general have always had an inbred DNA for fashion throughout the years,” he said.
“Vietnamese people tend to be proud of their local products and buy them as long as they are quality,” he said. “This cannot be seen in Singapore where locals enjoy shopping overseas.”
Torres believes that Vietnamese have good taste and that his local friends can always tell what looks good and what is better.
“Việt Nam has a special DNA that is different from many countries that I have been to, and that has kept me here for a long time,” he said, predicting that the country’s fashion would surpass Bangkok in time.
On a different note, Torres hopes the Vietnamese government will come up with effective plans to boost the fashion industry in general and textile business in particular in Việt Nam.
He pointed out that it was ironic that international firms invest in Việt Nam and have their quality fabrics shipped back to their home country, while he and his friends can only find quality fabrics overseas at expensive costs. — VNS