A year is a long time in fashion. Designers can show up to four ready-to-wear collections (spring/summer, pre-autumn, autumn/winter, resort), the turnover of trends occurs at an alarming rate, and new names constantly crop up as older ones fade away (or become “establishment”). While I wouldn’t describe Swedish fashion itself as happening at breakneck speed, it’s certainly been caught up in a whirlwind this year that now has several labels, names and styles on the lips (and backs!) of many around the world. Read more » >>
Tag archives for Nhu Duong
The second in my series of “Ones to Watch” introduces you to the designer Nhu Duong and her eponymous label. Duong made her Stockholm Fashion Week debut in 2009 after winning the first Mercedes-Benz Young Fashion Industry award the year before and has steadily been garnering buzz in the Swedish fashion scene ever since.
Born in Saigon to a kung-fu master and a tailoress, Duong immigrated to Sweden at the age of seven. Her designs have a familiar Swedish minimalist aesthetic, but there are also definite hints of sportswear and streetwear influences. What sets her apart, however, is the way she constantly challenges the wearer to create something new for themselves with her designs. In the notes for her S/S 2012 collection entitled “Coding,” Duong fervently encourages us to create our own “system of conventions.”
She plays between commerciality and high fashion, mixing unusual fabrics with luxurious ones and blurring the lines of casualwear and formalwear. But we’re not talking about finding that Swedish sense of lagom, where just enough of either side produces some sort of happy medium. There’s a tension to Duong’s clothes that makes them incredibly stimulating – to the body and mind.
Later this month, Duong will explore the edges of commerciality once again with the launch of a new clothing line with her good friend and Swedish blog star turned magazine editor Elin Kling. Called Nowhere, it seems to be based more on the kind of clothes Kling favours (loose jumpers, menswear-inspired trousers, body-con dresses and pointy stilettos), but with a Nhu Duong cerebral touch. In other words, chic, effortless and intelligent wardrobe basics.
How Nowhere will stack up against other Swedish labels remains to be seen, but with a small feature on Vogue.com already (and a countdown on the Nowhere website), anticipation is certainly running high. And definitely makes Nhu Duong one to watch.
The stereotypical gay fashion designer is not that often found in Sweden these days. In fact, the most successful designers tend to be women, with some notable exceptions like Lars Wallin and Jonny Johansson at Acne (the latter who, if we are nit-picking, is not gay).
Not that I’m complaining. It’s nice to see that the overwhelming majority of female students in the design schools is reflected in the roster of successful designers as well.
In fact, the rise of Swedish fashion design during the Noughties was initiated by three women designers, all of whom are still designing. Lovisa Burfitt, Carin Rodebjer and Ann-Sofie Back all contributed something special to the scene, but shared (as I have already mentioned) a belief in fashion as a discipline and a form of expression.
Today the most interesting of the Swedish designers are women almost all of them. I’m talking about Sandra Backlund, who with her organic and futuristic knitwear showed that Swedish fashion design can be original, daring and reach an international audience. I’m also talking about Helena Hörstedt who might not be as well known as the former, but who has a lot in common with Sandra Backlund – they both have a very handicraft-based approach to clothes. To these to I’d also like to add Nhu Duong who marries the conceptual side of designers such as Ann-Sofie Back with the handicraft of Backlund and Hörstedt. (Sadly, Helena Hörstedt is not designing at the moment, taking a hiatus when becoming pregnant. But here’s hoping she will return soon. Sweden needs her.)
Most of the designers I admire in some ways design “against” the Swedish fashion norm, as a kind of reaction perhaps. I wrote about this in the catalog for the Swedish Institute’s fashion exhibition Swedish Fashion – Exploring a New Identity and you can read my thoughts here.
But in a more interesting way, these women show that the idea that women design practical clothes for themselves (while men who design for women are supposedly more interested in fashion as fantasy) is clearly mistaken. The incredibly intricate work of these designers cannot be described as wearable, even though these clothes definitely does transform the wearer into a beautiful walking piece of art. They prove that women designers are just as good at exploring the fantasy side of fashion as male designers have been.