Launching NINH Collection: NYFW Fall/Winter 2011

Two-time FSF scholarship winner Ninh Nguyen has come a long way since his Paris origins and Texas upbringing. Influenced by his parents’ success as pharmacists, Ninh originally pursued a career in medicine until realizing his untapped design talent. Now an FIT graduate and rookie menswear designer, Ninh is on the cusp of captivating fashion audiences with his bold, structured designs, which he presented for the first time at the recent 2011 Fall/Winter New York Fashion Week. Today, Ninh takes us through the process of developing a top-notch fashion presentation and how he came to understand his passion.

FOF: Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer?

NN: Actually, both my parents are pharmacists so the traditional route would have been medicine. In college I didn’t know what I wanted to become, so I took this route and received my bachelors in biology and minor in psychology. As much as I liked studying about people’s behaviors and mental process in social situations, I didn’t have the will and energy to go through the arduous medical road and spend years in grad school, residency and more classes if I specialized in a specific field.

FOF: When did you know you wanted to make the switch to fashion?

NN: So after graduating from college, I was a little lost as to what I really wanted to do. It wasn’t until I talked it through with my two brothers and they told me they’ve always noticed my keen sense of style and artistic abilities. I’ve always had an interest in fashion; I’ve just never thought I would have the skills and ability to make clothes. It was a shock telling my parents I wanted to move to NYC to pursue men’s fashion and not follow the established road to “success” in the medical field. I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology only because it was the only school in the States that has a specific menswear program. I acquired the YMA FSF scholarship both years during my education at FIT, which brought to my parents’ attention that maybe their son did have some talent. I also won the Arts of Fashion Competition for Best Men’s design in 2009.

FOF: Congrats! So tell us more about your collection.

NN: For this collection, I was greatly inspired by the concept of military units: army boots, aviator jackets, modern navy trench coats, police officer uniforms, etc. Since it is my first collection, I wanted to show people what I could do as a designer. I didn’t want to focus on just one concept, but unify the entire concept of military into one cohesive collection. The addition of winter gloves (made out of either leather or shearling), zipper knitted neckbands, and a collaboration of amazing jewelry by Cat Varga brought the collection together.

FOF: Where do you pull your inspiration from?

NN: To artists, anything can inspire their designs. I read a lot of men’s Japanese fashion magazines such as Sense, Gap Men, Popeye, Uomo and Choki where I can get very inspired by the many different street style snapshots that they feature. Architecture influences the geometric shapes and parallel lines in my designs. Interior design influences my color combinations. Art influences my mood. A great quote by an unknown artist goes like this, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And just living life and getting inspired by everything around me creates a new vision towards the way I design.

FOF: We noticed a “vampire” theme in your photo shoot before Fashion Week. What influenced this direction?

NN: It was a good idea to have the concept of “vampires” in the sneak peek editorial that we had published a few weeks prior to debuting the collection during NYFW. Although vampires are still cool in pop culture, we didn’t want to make it seem as if the NINH label was a gothic line. For the installation, we went away from the deep dark black eyeliner but still kept the bad ass, confident mood.

FOF: How long has the NINH collection been in the making? What was the process?

NN: Last August was when I thought about launching my own line. In October, I started working with my pattern maker in producing samples of each of the looks that I had drawn. During the holiday seasons, I managed to find plenty of time to sit down and elaborate my business plan, as well as plan for the show during NYFW, which included finding artists online to collaborate with me on the event. January was crunch time where I barely got any sleep as I had to run around trying to find sponsors, looking for boutiques to attend the show, working with a PR firm, giving artists a deadline to finish their artwork, working with the two non-profit organizations, making phone calls left and right, working with my stylist and operations manager, finding a venue and looking for lighting and platforms for the show, talking to modeling agencies, getting a teaser trailer film going, and editing the film with the producer. It was a lot of stress, but I guess the rush made me work even harder, and I learned a lot through this process.

FOF: That sounds like a crazy holiday season! What was it like having your first Fashion Week presentation?

NN: It’s a big accomplishment to be able to present during Fashion Week. I could’ve easily debuted this collection any other week, but the fact that I was presenting during NYFW made it all worthwhile because everyone is in the city – the press, buyers, editors, bloggers, celebs, etc. I wouldn’t have made the show a reality without my superb team of talented individuals who have helped me manage and control this madness. I would like to credit the following individuals: Alex Almeida, Cat Varga, Duc Nguyen, Michael Fisher, Shaun Marg and Tony Long. I believe we had a little over 450 rsvps, and maybe a headcount of 350-plus people attended the show. There were quite a few bloggers who attended the event such as Francesco, McArthur, and Izzy Tuason, just to name a few. A few pop celebs were there, such as Ronnie Kroell (from Bravo’s Make Me a Supermodel), fashion photographer Chervine Dalaeli, and if I’m correct, Krista White (winner of America’s Next Top Model) came with her stylist.

FOF: How did the artists and their work tie into the presentation?

NN: I wanted to challenge the norms of having a simple presentation by having art as part of the show. I found many artists online and decided to get in touch with them to see if they would like to do a small collaboration. I found a good 25 artists willing to make artwork based on my collection while keeping their aesthetic and style intact. In addition to having art and fashion go hand in hand, I wanted to add charity into the mix. Ninh Nguyen Inc. has partnered with Child Education International and Hope For the Silent Voices in promoting the work of these two charities. Child Education International and Hope For the Silent Voices work together to promote education, health care and sustainable development to discarded children in the developing countries of Cambodia, Haiti, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Both organizations work together to coordinate volunteer missions to help children in need across the globe.

FOF: What was the media and New York fashion world’s response to your presentation?

NN: Many people said this presentation was one of the best men’s presentations during NYFW. Not only did we have a platform with all 16 models from top agencies, but we also collaborated this event with artists from around the world in donating an illustration to charity. All illustrations were based on the NINH Autumn/Winter collection. I wish we had more press and magazine editors come to the show, but as a start-up designer, you can’t expect to have media be at your show when you’re competing with a lot of other more established designers on the same day during NYFW.

FOF: What’s next for the NINH collection?

NN: Now…comes the hard part of finding investors and buyers. I am looking to open an online store linked to my website but I would still need to find investors to help fund the production process as well as start and maintain the company. Eventually in the near future I am definitely looking to open a flagship store in NYC!

To view the NINH collection, lookbook and presentation, please visit www.ninhnguyen.co

For more information on Child Education International and Hope For the Silent Voices, please visit www.ChildEd.org and www.HopeFortheSilentVoices.org.

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