In the world of visual arts, specifically in the fashion sector in Vietnam, Dzung Yoko has become a big influence. Holding the position of ELLE fashion magazine’s Creative Director for eight years now, he always knows how to record difficult imprints through his own talents, while at the same time expressing new and sophisticated points. The viewer must hand it to him and acknowledge the talent of this veteran visual artist.
It has been almost three years since we last talked to Dzung Yoko about the first art book of his career. This time, he made an appointment with us at Duu Tuo Restaurant – where he organized a 3D exhibition and released his third art book with the theme “Love.” Join Vietcetera in listening to the honest advice of Dzung Yoko regarding fashion media and the work of a Creative Director for a fashion magazine.
What brought you to the fashion industry?
I loved fashion since my childhood. I remember when I was still unfamiliar with the concept of fashion in Vietnam. I collected a series of foreign fashion magazines to look at and imitated the good drawings.
Despite graduating from university as valedictorian with a major in Architecture, I did not choose that career. Instead, I found another job closer to my passion — graphic design. I have been attached to this job for a long time and have also earned certain achievements. I designed over 20 covers for famous Vietnamese singers at the time like Tran Thu Ha, Le Hieu, Hien Thuc, and Tung Duong. I also designed the album “Portrait 17” by singer Hien Thuc, which was awarded the “Design Idea” award at the 2009 Golden Album Award. However, at that time, I knew this was still not the work that I really loved.
It was not until 2011, when I was 34 years old, that ELLE magazine returned to Vietnam and founded the fashion I show on the covers. They invited me to take the position of Creative Director. Right from the beginning, I knew that this was the job that I’ve always wanted to pursue.
What strengths do you have that have helped you succeed working in fashion ?
I really like to draw, especially sketches. I did not expect that this hobby would become a huge advantage for me as a Creative Director. Sketching helps me convey concepts correctly, in a way that allows the work to go smoothly
At that time, I was one of the few Creative Directors in Vietnam to outline a concept of a cover photo before taking the photo. I am thankful that I was a student because all the years and time in graphic design work – the drawing exercises, the work experience — helped me sharpen space visualization skills, present the context and colors etc.
Do you have any shortcomings that interfere with your work? How do you overcome them?
I have two major drawbacks. The first is management skills. In the early days of my career, my management skills were very poor. I used to tend to embrace my work fully because I didn’t know how to allocate my staff and time to work effectively. Over many years of work, I have gradually overcome this drawback and have had more time to focus on creativity. Currently, I do not micromanage like before, but, instead, divide the work and allocate it to each person accordingly.
The second drawback is that I’m too sensitive. As an artist, sensitivity helps me have a multifaceted look and see the hidden corners. However, in a leading position, it has more or less affected my work. Up to now, I have not overcome it, and I do not think that I can change this nature in the future (laugh).
People often think that doing art is to “fly.” What do you think about this statement?
When I was young, I had a misconception that artists should only do art and not commercial projects. For me, the present is different – a true artist must know how to do business. It is these actual collaborations that will help artists understand life and become more mature.
Since this is a job, it is impossible to “fly” all the time. If we stubbornly follow that old concept, we cannot exist in the competitive digital age.
What is a problem of professional ethics often found in this industry?
Stealing is a gray area. Sadly, I still do not see any legal basis that is strong enough or any direction to solve this problem thoroughly. Much of my work has been ripped off, including the pictures with the magazine logo too.
For me, art is an inheritance – people who go after, learn, and grow from those who went first. But they must show their own characteristics in the work. Clones are just copies from ideas to the presentation of the original.
What are the specific challenges in this industry? What is an effective way to overcome those challenges?
The fashion industry has a fierce elimination culture. The fashionista must always maintain his or her performance, because once what is expressed is not good, the customer or the public will easily replace them with another name, no matter how successful they were before. The only way to overcome this obstacle is to challenge yourself everyday through constantly updating and learning world trends.
Who has influenced your career the most?
I was greatly influenced by my colleagues. The beauty of this industry is resonance. It was my colleagues who inspired and energized me every day.
I idolize British photographer Tim Walker. His dreamy pictures are taken from the mindset and perspective of the camera holder, rather than a technical perspective. As someone who specializes in concepts, I made up my mind to become the person behind the lens. The ones who directly guided me to take photos were Nhu Xuan Hua and Monkey Minh.
In addition, people who have understood and regularly inspired me throughout this eight year career journey is Tung Chau, a makeup artist. For me, Tung Chau is not only a longtime partner, but also a close brother. It is impossible not to mention friends who have motivated my work, like Lien Chi, ELLE Vietnam’s editorial secretary, and Ha Mi, a fashion strategist.
How are relationships in this area often built?
Relationships in the fashion industry are only built when creative people prove their ability through works. From designers to models, everyone must ensure the quality of their finished products.
Although my starting point was quite late, I was lucky enough to work in a large magazine and perform well from the first issue. It was these factors that became a stepping stone in making my name and relationships in the industry easier.
So, the “rookies” who are new to the industry and some of my employees often face difficulties when trying to contact suppliers. Understanding these hardships, I am always ready to support them when they need it.
How has fashion media changed compared to the previous three to five years? Do those changes affect you?
The current fashion market has changed a lot. Thanks to the development of the Internet, many works, concepts, and trends from all over the world are shared and updated daily. This allows creative people like myself to open our eyes and force ourselves to innovate and try harder.
In addition, the working attitude of Vietnamese people in recent years has also significantly improved and become more professional. This is a good sign for the Vietnamese fashion industry in the integration era.