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Thuy Duong Nguyen – Vietnamese fashion designer of London based label Thu Thu – is clearly one very busy lady.
Having waited through the chaos of the last London fashion week, Claire Hazelton spoke to her about Thu Thu’s colourful, cheerful yet elegant and pattern-dense SS13 line, a collection inspired by artist Gerhard Richter and her on-going heritage influence (specifically the traditional fabric-making of the northern mountain region of Vietnam, Sapa).
FLUX: Why were you attracted to the work of Gerhard Richter work in particular for this collection?
Thuy Duong Nguyen: I’m especially fascinated by the way Richter portrays movement. His work is dynamic without being too loud; it’s subtle, yet energetic.
F: A lot of your patterns seem very controlled, often symmetrical with lots of detailed embroidery… Richter’s work a lot of the time, however, feels spontaneous. Is there any spontaneity in your work as a designer?
TDN: That’s another thing I like about Richter’s work: he varies his approach with each piece of artwork he creates. His photorealistic pictures for example are well thought-out and carefully planned and crafted, whereas with other works he just kind of goes with the flow. I think it’s very important to keep that balance – as my prints and embroidered fabrics are quite lively, I like to keep the patterns clean to even things out.
F: How has the Gerhard Richter influence been materialised in your collection? You have been quoted explaining that you have used chopsticks and spatulas to create different forms… where can I see an example of this? Can you explain this process further?
TDN: The prints I have used in the SS13 collection are essentially the product of these experiments. It was very much a hands-on approach; I took different colour pigments and applied them with different techniques. I wanted to create different forms and textures. Since I draw inspiration from the things around me, grabbing objects like the chopsticks from my Asian-influenced kitchen seemed quite natural to me!
F: Are you influenced by the work of any other visual artist?
TDN: Sure! I’m constantly inspired by a lot of things and artists. My focal point varies from collection to collection. This AW13 season I was especially into Irish photographer Richard Mosse’s work.
F: Your cultural influences also interest me. You take from your Vietnamese heritage as well as your European life now. Was your combination of Western and Far Eastern influences something that came naturally to you?
TDN: A bit of both – I grew up with both cultures so naturally my way of thinking and my aesthetic is influenced by my heritage. But of course, it was a conscious decision to pair these two (often opposing) influences.
F: Please tell me more about your use of Sapa fabric. Does using Sapa fabric hold any meaning for you beyond its obviously stunning appearance?
TDN: Yes, it does – it is a traditional Vietnamese fashion fabric and a part of my cultural heritage. I visited the Sapa region on a trip to Vietnam in 2009, and I was so inspired by the people and their beautiful fabric that it became the catalyst for my first collection!
F: When preparing to create a new collection, where do you get your inspiration from?
TDN: I take inspiration from my day-to-day life and my travels mostly. It’s hard to pinpoint a particular source as even the smallest things around me can be hugely inspiring.
F: You often use the base of a bomber jacket or biker jacket shape to build your designs on. What attracts you to these shapes and styles?
TDN: I stick to them because for me, they are timeless classics. Cool, yet sophisticated. The fabrics provide a feminine touch to the boxy silhouette. Again it’s all about finding the balance.
F: Is it important to you that your designs are practical, easy to wear and suitable for many occasions?
TDN: Of course. I think that’s what makes certain pieces of clothing stand out: the ones that you can always wear, no matter the occasion and the ones that you feel good in!
F: Is there a concept behind your SS13 campaign and collection?
TDN: I wanted to create a very summery vibe, so having incorporating pure daylight and tropical palms was quite ideal.
F: Does your own personality (after Richter and Vietnamese fashion traditions) go into your work?
TDN: Absolutely! I design pieces that I would love to have in my wardrobe myself.
F: What is your own style like?
TDN: I love mixing statement pieces with streetwear.
F: If you were to choose music to go with this collection, what would it be?
TDN: New Look – Nap On The Blow.
For more on new Vietnamese Fashion see Nubi Magazine.
Words: Claire Hazelton
Photography: Lena Emery