“I believe every woman has a ‘switch.’ Once that switch is activated, they become the best version of themselves. However, few are able to recognize and turn on that switch. That’s where I come in — I am the one that helps women find and activate their ‘switch,’” Thu Vu shares, explaining the reason why she chose to pursue a career as a fashion advisor.
Thu Vu (real name Vũ Anh Thư), is often known in the fashion world as Coco Chà Bông. This name is also well known on the bestseller’s list, Thanh lịch kiểu Pháp (Elegant like the French) and Đời thay đổi khi ta thay đồ (Life Changes When We Change Clothes).
Thu Vu has been passionate about fashion ever since she was young. When she was a student, she majored in both Management and Fashion Business at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University and International Law at Ho Chi Minh University of Law. One major was a choice to follow her passion. The other served as a ‘back-up plan’ in case she ran into difficulties. However, she always prioritized fashion and decided to change paths and dedicate all of her time and effort into her passion a year later.
In addition to her passion, she also attributes her decision to her love for the female community. Thu Vu believes that the word, ‘obsessed’ best summarizes her feelings for fashion and women. Her work as a Fashion Advisor allows her to make a career out of her two biggest passions.
While this career stills appear to be fresh and unknown in Vietnam, this path is not new in other developed countries. Vietcetera met with Thu Vu to hear her explain the job of a Fashion Advisor and share her valuable experiences.
Can you explain your job for people who don’t understand what it is?
Like the name suggests, my job’s main duties include meeting with, talking to, and advising clients about fashion. However, my job does not just require me to provide my knowledge on fashion so that people can perfect their outfits, but also to lead people to change their perception of their bodies. This is especially true for women who have insecurities about their physical flaws. Women are so busy trying to find ways of hiding their flaws that they forget about their strengths that need to be flaunted.
In that sense, a Fashion Advisor’s priority is to create a base and help the client realize their self -worth and beauty, so that from there, step by step, they change their way of approaching fashion. This Cinderella effect is the launching point that helps them attain the goals that might have seemed like mere dreams before.
My clients are both commercial and personal. Commercial clients usually hire me for talks, workshops about style for their office workers, or advisement on designs for uniforms.
What is the difference between Fashion Advisor versus Fashion Stylist?
In Vietnam, a Fashion Stylist’s job is to pick out outfits for celebrities in the case of events and work with magazines or journals.
On the other hand, a Fashion Advisor spends more time talking to clients and understands the client’s situation, lifestyle, and their worries. From there, the Fashion Advisor will help the client create their own brand, as well as provide knowledge and energy to help them improve themselves ‘inside and out.’
What led you to be a Fashion Advisor?
Before, I never imagined myself doing this job. I only knew that I loved fashion and was willing to do any job associated with the field. Perhaps the phrase, “The career chooses the person, the person does not choose the career,” is true.
In college, I interned at a fashion magazine and applied to be a collaborator for Vietnam International Fashion Week. I wanted to learn from others’ experiences and widen my connection with people in the industry.
It’s thanks to that that I was able to interact with women in many different fields of work. I was surprised to find that no matter the occupation, women always have a complex relationship with clothes.
Dressing up, and wearing nice clothes usually calls for a lot of judgement, which makes women pay more attention to outer appearance and less to learning about the basics of fashion. When it comes time for change, they are lost and often do not know where to start.
A plethora of new fashion brands are constantly created both in and out of the country. Advertisements can be seen from every corner. As a result, the process of choosing clothes for women becomes overwhelming.
To make it worse, I noticed that there are very few articles or blogs to help women filter and find their personal style. As a result, I made the decision to create a page on my personal Facebook through which I helped people create a happier relationship with fashion. At that point in time, I still was not aware of the existence of fashion advising.
What was your experience like entering the field/career?
Thanks to the blog on Facebook, I had the chance to work with a famous book publisher. In order to give my full attention to that position, I made the decision to quit my job at the magazine.
The two books, Thanh lịch kiểu Pháp (Elegant like the French) and Đời thay đổi khi ta thay đồ (Life changes when we change clothes), helped me better understand the concerns women have with life and fashion. Those books also introduced me to the field of fashion advising.
After that success, the book publisher and I began a plan to build a community of women, starting with an exchange about lifestyle and fashion with readers.
Through those conversations, I realized that Vietnamese women truly care about this issue. They even shared with me that they made certain changes after participating, not only in the way they view and approach fashion, but also in the way they live.
I realized that what I was doing was something that not many were doing at the moment: I had a part in building and improving the quality of life for the community of Vietnamese women. At the same time, I also found that my biggest love was not writing, but rather helping women find their own lifestyle and fashion style.
Did you have someone to guide you in the early days of your career?
Since this is a fairly new career in Vietnam, it is not easy to find a person who has experience to guide or lead a professional development class. In the early days of my career, I did not have someone directly mentor me. Instead, I spent a lot of time cultivating knowledge from many sources, such as books or other materials.
However, that knowledge is only theoretical. The most important lessons came from observing and talking to a lot of women. Each person with their own story gave me lots of different experiences and challenges. I always combine both theoretical knowledge and actual experience to create the best result for my job.
What were the hardships in starting as a Fashion Advisor?
The first and biggest challenge was understanding the customer’s problems and convincing them to change. That is the part that requires the most time perseverance from the Fashion Advisor.
Through experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that clients very rarely share their core problem when talking. The advisor has to recognize this and from there, find a way to dig deeper instead of relying on surface level conversations to solve the issue.
Convincing someone to change has never been an easy task. For me, ‘change’ is a term that elicits fear and pressure. It is not just stepping outside of their comfort zone, but also preparing to accept judging eyes and opinions from people around. Those are the reasons why we falter.
With that in mind, I always advise clients to limit seeing people they know during the process of changing themselves. Instead, they should go alone and to any place that they can feel and enjoy their ‘escape of the body.’
The next challenge that a fashion advisor faces is updating trends. A fashion advisor must intelligently and tactfully analyze trends, realize which trends are out of style, and understand which trends are hot but lack depth.
An example is leather clothing and respectful/conservative clothing. To me, these two famous trends are narrowing the diversity of beauty and personal style and pushing women into harsh standards, despite the fact that they can shine through their own beauty. The most important factor when choosing clothing is the message and spirit you want to convey through style and color.
What skills are required to be a fashion advisor?
To pursue this industry, the first skill is general knowledge and experience with fashion. The next skills are the abilities to observe, listen, analyze, and speak.
How high is the supply-demand for this industry? Does it have the opportunity to develop in the future?
I am very excited for the future of this industry. The development of social media allows us to express ourselves more. Because of that, people are beginning to pay attention to building their own brand, the role of fashion, and the need to orient style.
Today, looks are becoming an increasingly popular recruitment factor for employers. Professional appearance and being stylish are a plus factor for candidates. In the case of two candidates with equal capacity and experience, an impressive appearance will be the deciding factor.
What are your four favorite factors of this job?
The first is that this job is completely related to fashion. I am passionate about looking at the applications and the influence of fashion on human life. I have never felt bored when spending many hours and days studying and exchanging about fashion.
Secondly, I get to meet and interact with many people from different fields. Each person I have met brought me many new and valuable lessons, along with various challenges. Not only did they not make me falter, but on the contrary, they always fueled my desire to conquer.
In addition, I get to witness the process of clients changing themselves. It does not stop at the fact that they look more beautiful, but, most importantly, that they feel happier and more confident. That confidence helps them achieve wonderful things. It was these results that inspired me to continue to pursue this work.
The last thing I love about this job is freedom. I get to be completely proactive in addition to determining the rules of my own work. Thanks to that, I can arrange the plans for my projects myself.
Coco Dressing Room just opened this year, can you give a little introduction about this project? Why did you decide to choose it as your starting project?
Coco Dressing Room started as small events I organized to liquidate my closet as well as my friend’s closets – those who work in the field of entertainment and art. After a few pop-up programs, I gradually grew to love this type of event because it solves a lot of problems.
Women almost never use all of the clothes in their closet. For me the closet is like a museum and a place that contains a series of wrong decisions. The fact that these clothes stay in the closet stems from many reasons: buying them in a state of excitement, changing body sizes and working environments, or simply because they are no longer trendy …
Whatever the reason, not using clothes after buying them is a waste, but cleaning out the closet is hard work, exhausting, and sometimes sad. Therefore, I wanted to create a ‘huge’ closet to reduce the ‘pressure’ of liquidating a wardrobe and create an opportunity for all women to share their closets with each other while talking about fashion.
One of the other motives of this project is the desire to reduce fashion waste on the environment. Reusing an item means that we are extending its life. These small actions contribute to reducing fuel and supplies needed during production.
How is Coco Dressing Room different compared to other closet clean out projects that are becoming popular in Vietnam?
Clothing at Coco Dressing Room is always carefully selected and priced. Besides that, we always have stylists to help you choose and coordinate outfits.
Coco Dressing Room is also a space for people to interact and connect. I hope Coco Dressing Room will be a place to create great connections among individuals with the same love for fashion.
Can you share how you manage your work?
As a freelance worker and manager of a small group of employees, my list of job duties is diverse, ranging from meeting customers, partners, and suppliers to focusing on long term projects such as blogging, program design, statistics…
To achieve the highest possible productivity, I follow Paul Graham’s method of dividing work into two types. One type is according to the manager’s schedule and the other according to the employee’s perspective (maker’s schedule).