“Initially, it was just a hobby that I liked to do on the side, but with every new skill that I acquired, the realisation came that I was coming to love my little pastime.”* – Thuỷ Nguyễn, 2018
“The uniqueness of fashion by Thuỷ Nguyễn is her ambition to revivify the tradition through the contemporary fashion language.” – Wechoice Awards, 2017
Known and recognised for her multidisciplinary creative practice, entrepreneurship and distinct aesthetic, Thuỷ Nguyễn is one of Vietnam’s most celebrated designers and a leader in Vietnam’s emerging and rapidly growing fashion industry. This exhibition, curated by Dolla S. Merrillees, is the first to explore her career and practice of more than a decade, revealing the background, creative processes, cultural influences and inspiration that have contributed to the making of a successful and acclaimed fashion design house.
Born and raised in Hanoi, Thuỷ Nguyễn graduated from Vietnam University of Fine Arts and completed her post graduate studies at the National Academy of Visual Arts and Architecture, Kiev. Despite little in the way of formal training in fashion design, Nguyễn launched herself into the world of fashion, opening her flagship store, Thuy Design House on Saigon’s Dong Khoi Street in 2011 that has subsequently expanded to include five stores across Vietnam. Featuring regularly in Vietnam International Fashion Week, Thuy Design House also presents its collections internationally and in 2015 was invited to participate in a showcase of contemporary fashion as part of Vietnam Culture Day in Rome.
With a creative practice spanning diverse disciplines including painting, art installations and design, Nguyễn has been a consistent champion of traditional Vietnamese culture and her collections have drawn inspiration from vintage textiles, decorative arts, mid-century ceramics, 20th century paintings by artists such as Mai Trung Thứ (1906-1980), Lê Phổ (1907-2001) and Trần Văn Cẩn (1910-1994), students of the École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine, polaroid photographs from the 1960s and 70s as well as the áo dài, Vietnam’s iconic national dress and other traditional accessories.
Her multi-disciplinary career has seen her produce an award-winning film, Cô Ba Sài Gòn (The Tailor), a romantic comedy featuring the culture and lifestyle of Saigonese and the history of áo dài. Within artistic circles she is known as ‘Tia-Thuỷ Nguyễn’, a role that saw her founding of The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Ho Chi Minh City, in 2016 (Vietnam’s first purpose-built independent space for contemporary art). In 2019, Nguyễn’s design, visual art and business acumen saw her being listed by Forbes Vietnam as one of the top fifty most influential women in the country.
Central to her success is her delicate, feminine and romantic designs, her imaginative use of colour and fabric, and her blending of old and new to embody the strength and character of the contemporary Vietnamese woman. This exhibition will bring into focus her unique creative perspective featuring garments, accessories, ensembles and archival material from her own personal collection presented in a series of strikingly designed mise en scène.
This exhibition is organized by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, in partnership with Thuy Design House, curated by Dolla S. Merrillees.
*Hive Life, Weaving Tradition with Fashion, Mickey L, Vietnam April 2, 2018