A few weeks ago, I managed to steal menswear designer Ninh Nguyen on the phone for a quick chat about the launch of his first collection at New York Fashion Week. Quiet and soft spoken, the Paris-born Vietnamese-American described his eponymous NINH label as “Burberry meets Yohji Yamamoto”. Brilliantly talented – he’s a biology and psychology graduate who left science to pursue his passion for fashion – Ninh Nguyen received two fashion scholarships from the YMA-FSF (Fashion Scholarship Fund) in 2007 and 2008, and won the Arts of Fashion competition in 2009.
Tell us a little about the NINH collection and your show at New York Fashion Week.
The NINH collection is my first collection. It has a military or uniform kind of theme. I love outerwear, so there are a lot of jackets; there’s a military jacket, a safari one, navy, army, double-breasted. They’re quite masculine but have a slim and fitted silhouette that softens them/their overall appearance. The jackets are mostly wool because it’s for the winter, but there are also canvas, twill and sateen fabrics there. The key colors in the collection are navy, burgandy, black and gray. It’s half tailored, half streetwear.
As for the show itself, we had about 350 to 400 guests, which is a really good turnout. I received a lot of compliments on the clothes, and it was really great to be there and meet people. I added an art auction to the show with 100% of the proceeds going towards two charities, Child Education and Hope for Silent Voices. I worked with 25 artists from all over the world and asked them to create a painting or drawing based on my collection. The artwork was displayed on walls around the room and the auction took place after the show.
You describe the NINH label as something for the modern-day Renaissance man. Who, dead, alive or fictional, would you like to see wearing your clothes?
Of the Dandies, Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde. A public figure? Prince Edward the Duke of Windsor. From the celebrities, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Sean Connery, Mick Jagger. Kanye West for sure; he’s doing a lot of suits lately.
You are living in New York now. Where in New York inspires you?
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, East Village and Soho. These areas and the people living there are so fashionable, very indie. I love taking my sketchbook there, sitting at a cafe and drawing everything, especially the street wear. I like to see what people are wearing and how they’re wearing it.
You’re Vietnamese, and you moved to the US from Paris, where you were born. Does your multi-cultural upbringing influence your designs?
Yes it does. There’s an Asian side to what I do, definitely. I love the fashion in Korean dramas, like in Boys Over Flowers. And I also like Japanese street wear; it brought fashion photographers and bloggers to the streets, taking pictures of what people are wearing. Plus, Asians always have crazy hairstyles. As for the European side, that’s the Renaissance thing, it’s the NINH man.
What’s your must-have for spring this year?
A light windbreaker. I’m also going to make jodhpurs (riding pants). I don’t believe in following trends, I think you can still be fashionable without being trendy.
From left: Artwork by Rachel Shin; NINH F/W12 collction.