Ducking out of the rain to open the door to House of Barbaard in District 1, fashion designer and model Huỳnh Tiên were armed with suits for a night of conversation about her work.
Tiên is a Black-Vietnamese fashion designer and model who visited this jazzy lounge for a LandedVibe event. Founded by Tri Lecao, LandedVibe is a website where millennials can share their skills or hobbies through transaction-based activities. The site offers other experiences such as a recent archery lesson and competition.
The smoky atmosphere, comfortable seats, and hazy lighting created the perfect space for those in attendance to wear Tien’s suits. Pictures curated by the founders were stacked on the walls and gazed out at the guests. House of Barbaard summons Dutch traditions reminiscent of a classic barbershop and men’s haven.
That feeling of empowerment is what Tiên seeks when she creates her pieces. Sitting confidently, Tiên promptly recalled her first experience designing a suit for a groom and what she had learned,”The right suit will complement not only the space you’re in, but also emanate power and authority.” Tiên’s suits are all tailored to the customers that come into her shop and are all either hand-sewn or made with the help of a machine with precise stitching.
“It’s like falling in love with an older guy,” Tiên described her passion, a skill deeply connected with history and culture. It’s a skill that she continues to develop by researching online and watching YouTube videos. Vietcetera was able to speak with Tien and receive more insight into her vision and the future of custom made suits.
How did you begin in fashion design? Did you have mentors?
I studied at Ho Chi Minh City of Technology school (HUTECH) for fashion design. I began studying suit [making] around one year ago. I don’t have mentors, but the good thing about not having one is that you have [the opportunity] to learn everything by yourself. You have the chance to learn new things everyday. When I have problems in my business, I always try to share that with my friends as they have their own business.
How did you begin modeling?
I began modeling professionally when I was 20 years old, and I used to model for my friend at university. Being a model was like my luck because I learned a lot of things; I know what the professional shows look like, how the photoshoot should be, and sometimes I was taught concepts while shooting. Now, it has helped me a lot for my own business.
Please describe how you created your brand.
You know my brand is suit design for men and women, and the funny thing is three years ago, when I was in school, I never thought that I would do something with suits. It was kind of hardcore for a student like me in that time. One day, my friend begged me to make a suit for his wedding because he couldn’t find his suit styles in stores.
Just making a suit for my friend felt good but more than I expected, they were so happy to wear it. “Oh I look like a businessman, it fits me really well, I think I’m gonna mix and match it that so that I can wear it any day I want, anywhere I go…”
I feel more happy than them. In this time, I think I can find my own way, and it’s a right way. I started to write down my business plan to help men and women find their perfect fit and even feel happy and confident to wear my suit. That is my mission.
When you come to my store, you have your personal stylist to help you discover your style and design your perfect suit. Then, the suit stylist will work with the tailor to make it. They also give you advice about mix and match, how to make it elegant, and how to make it more casual. As you know, I run my business alone with my passion, I still am on my way to make it more valuable.
What are the elements of a good suit? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Basically, I think a well-fitted suit should always fit the wearer’s body proportions. The cloth and lining section is also one of the most important things to have in good suits that you need to know.
My inspiration comes from everything. Sometimes, I can get it from night fabrics, sometimes I can get it on the street when I see men and/or women wearing suits and the way they wear it give me the good ideas. I also love sometimes I get inspiration from some of my customers; they always inspire me with their styles.
Do you have more male or female customers? What are their common questions or demands?
I have more female customers than male customers. Maybe [since] I am a woman, so women support women (laughs). The customers are all business men and women, so they wear my suits for events, business, etc. But, they always ask me to find out how to wear suits that still make them different from other people and how to make it more casual when they are not in event or business meeting. Me and my team find out ways to help them to mix and match everything with suits.
I love when my customers tell me, “Oh that’s a good idea. I can wear it for coffee time with my friend tomorrow and even wear it to work.
Do you think suits will be more than a trend in Vietnam?
Yeah, that’s for sure. I saw groups of young people wearing suits and discussing suits altogether. I think it will become a style or culture such as in Pitti Uomo [an international event for menswear and men accessories collections].
I believe in it. I am working hard on it. That’s why you can see what I am doing with LandedVibe now. I hope it will be more than activities.
You said that creating suits was like falling in love with an older guy, can you explain?
(Laughs) I don’t know if I can explain it for you. But seriously, I feel like I am in love with an older man who has so many experiences and even history to tell. You need to know everything about him, to talk to him, and to share with him. He is your love, your passion, so you want the relationship to be worth it and not fall in love in a careless way.
Following the conversation with Tien, the event’s second half was a casual photoshoot. Tien herself was Miss Sport of Miss Universe in 2017, and advised the participants on how to pose in front of the camera.
The night ended with a night of jazzy music, as Tien sang and danced in her seat to the music, surrounded by the guests who had come to experience her one-of-a-kind suits for themselves.