By Cecilia Sha
As the 2012 New York Fashion Week began, we had a chance to visit the up-and-coming menswear designer Ninh Nguyen in his Spanish Harlem apartment, a third-floor multi-purpose apartment that serves as a workspace, showroom, warehouse, and home for the 28-year –old designer.
Being of Vietnamese descent, Ninh was born in Paris, France and raised there until his family relocated to Texas nine years later, “I graduated from UTA with a B.S and minor in Psychology, with the intention of going on to medical school to become a psychiatrist. I realized that I didn’t want to spend my entire youth studying, going through residency and then practicing the specialty, so I turned to my inner passion and switched to the field of Fashion,” Ninh said. He received two fashion scholarships from the YMA-FSF (Fashion Scholarship Fund) in 2007 and 2008, and won the Arts of Fashion competition in 2009, one and a half years after he graduated from the Menswear Program at FIT.
For some, inspiration is a difficult creative element to quench; but for Ninh, it’s only an Absinthe glass away. “You know how artists are-they’re crazy in the head,” he jokes.
With his multi-cultural background upbringing influencing his designs, Ninh defined his eponymous NINH label as “Burberry meets Yohji Yamamoto”. “ 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 steet wear and I read Japanese fashion magazines. Plus, Asians always have crazy hairstyles. As for the European side, that’s the Renaissance thing, British fit and comfort topped with Asian influence, it’s the NINH man.”
In his outerwear collection, you can see a variety of architectural and military details. Carefully curated buttons and hardware are heavy in use, but light in weight for some aviator inspired jackets, tailored tailcoats, well-cut tuxedos, and white bib button-down shirts. The designer would like to make NINH Collection a lifestyle brand, branching off into accessories, handbags, hats, shoes and even eyewear in the future. In his apartment, he also showed us his punky funky jackets for his Spring 2013 women’s collection to us. Who knows, maybe there will be a “NINH Collection-Femme” line in his future.
“It’s easy to be creative,” admits Ninh, “but fashion is a business, so if you can’t manage a company, your brand will sink.” That’s a gradual challenge which needs to be taken one step at a time, with good planning and branding. He revealed that he has applied to appear on the hit NBC reality show “Fashion Star”, and is waiting to hear back from the producer. During Fashion week, Ninh will have his presentation for his 2013 spring collection in Soho. This kind of platform provides mainstream commercial exposure that brings plenty of fashion credits and references—hopefully enough to help a now small business like NINH Collection continue to grow.
NINH Collection is currently available at three online websites: www.ninh.co/shop, Tiaelo.com, and VueSociety.com, as well as sold at Brigade LA.