Viet Nam News
Designer Đỗ Trịnh Hoài Nam will open the 26th Couture Fashion Week New York with his Golden Lotus Áo Dài Collection on September 8. The collection showcases traditional Vietnamese costumes with a rendering of images in a special silk pattern and hand-decorated with gold leaves.
One of the top fashion designers in Việt Nam, Nam rose to fame after winning the Việt Nam Collection Grand Prix 2014, presented by Việt Nam Design Institute. Since then, he has taken part in leading fashion events both at home and abroad.
The designer is particularly known for his elegant, glamourous áo dài (traditional long robe) designs, and has designed the áo dài for National Assembly’s chairwoman Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân.
In an interview with Hồng Nhung of Thể Thao Văn Hóa (Sport and Culture), Nam talks about his latest collection, becoming famous, and his love for the áo dài.
What took you to Couture Fashion Week New York? And how does it feel to go ahead of 30 renowned designers and present your collection in the first catwalk event?
I have designed several fashion collections and they caught the attention of the organising board of the Couture Fashion Week New York, especially my áo dài collection featuring the works of painters from the former imperial Huế City and inspired by traditional culture.
Actually I had been invited to the event last season too, but I did not have time to prepare and I was ready to join only this season. I spent nearly a year working on the designs that are imprinted with cultural characteristics using Vietnamese traditional crafts.
I am participating in this event as they lay emphasis on traditional cultural elements. Through it, I can promote my brand. I also hope to promote the image of Việt Nam and leave the international audience with a good impression about Việt Nam.
What is special about your Golden Lotus collection, compared to your previous ones?
My Golden Lotus collection has been inspired by the type of áo dài which was often worn on occasions such as engagements and weddings by the genteel, upper-class women back in the feudal days. The collection features the traditional long dress and the revamped dress, changed to suit the modern times.
The patterns I’ve used in these costumes are inspired from the image of lotus and puppet figures. They have been made from a rich, heavy, one-of-a-kind silk fabric, are embellished with gemstones and pieces of jewellery from Hàng Bạc Street, as well as hand-embroidered products from Mỹ Đức District.
The patterns are laminated with gold, using the unique gold pattern technique used by Kiêu Kỵ Village artisans. All the patterns are hand-made and created using the techniques and skills found in traditional craft villages. My aim was to create something simple and luxurious, with pure beauty.
What made you decide to showcase gold-laminated áo dài instead of the traditional áo dài to the international audience? Does it really reflect Việt Nam’s identity?
Many say that the traditional áo dài has been ruined through reform. I just want to say that the traditional áo dài should be used for traditional occasions, like say when we visit temples or pagodas or for traditional events and festivals such as the Lunar New Year.
But the áo dài must also ‘grow’, like a plant grows with age. Tradition and culture also need to integrate. Culture, which includes fashion, needs to transform to suit contemporary culture and the current times.
An áo dài inlaid with gemstones and gold patterns must be very expensive. The living standards of Vietnamese people is average. So, who will have the opportunity to use these luxury pieces?
Everything has its time, and this is the time for the reformed áo dài. It can be used for various purposes and in different circumstances. When we take part in a luxury fashion show like the New York Couture Fashion Week, we have to showcase luxurious designs.
My clients are often international politicians and business people who choose my design for important diplomatic events, which in turn helps promote the image of Việt Nam. For me, fashion is a non-verbal tool that can convey deep cultural values. VNS