At the age of 18, instead of entering university lecture halls with her peers, Chau Bui asked her parents for permission to try the path she wanted to pursue – to become a fashion model. If a year passes without any success, she told her parents, she will return to her studies. Fortunately, Chau succeeded in asserting herself and her ambitions.
The past 4 years have been a journey for Chau Bui to establish her position as a leading fashion model in Vietnam. She became the face of a series of high-end fashion brands, and has been continuously honored at major awards such as the influential fashion icon across Asia at the 2017 Influence Asia Award; the Young Style Innovator Award at ELLE Style Awards 2018; and the latest, the most influential personal style on social media at ELLE Style Awards 2019. She was also one of the youngest speakers at the 2019 Women’s Conference organized by Forbes Vietnam.
With the reputation of a young but very mature and gracious woman, that was what our impression confirmed when we met her on the first of August, at the apartment she had recently settled in not long ago. Vietcetera sat down to chat with Chau to discuss her experiences and insights as Vietnam’s hottest new fashion icon.
3 words describing Chau’s lifestyle and fashion sense.
Active. Diverse. Strange.
“Active” is a factor I always give top priority to when choosing outfits. I like simple but modern outfits, that are made of environmentally friendly materials.
“Diverse” and “strange” are the adjectives that define my personality most clearly. I like to refresh myself. I also like to turn old into new and experiment with new and unique things no matter how hard it is to wear or contrasting others. However, I still tell myself that whatever the transformation, it must be appropriate to the situation, and respect the other person.
For me, besides fashion, diversity also helps my life not be monotonous, creating positive energy and space so that I can learn from those around me.
What has led you here to the role of a fashion model?
If you’ve followed me for a long time, you probably know that I started as a photo model. At that time, I had absolutely no inclination to become a fashion model. Being one gives me the opportunity to try different styles. The more I experimented, the better I understood myself, my hobbies and fashion styles.
Luckily, outfits are instinctively coordinated and my personal preferences are loved by everyone. Overcoming the barrier of my “petite” appearance, I received the attention of the people, then received invitations to take photos for magazines and invitations to collaborate with brands.
What is your fashion perspective?
You may see me changing my style quickly, but my attitude has always been the same: Wear whatever like. Clothing is also a language that reflects the personality of the person who wears it.
If I wanted to win people’s sympathy from the early days, I would have chosen to appear with the pure and sweet appearance that was popular at that time. But that is not me, and I know that I cannot stay vogue forever. So I decided to maintain my own personality from the beginning. Just live as yourself, you will receive recognition. Maybe not from all, but from the right people. You will properly influence the people you need to influence.
In addition, I don’t dress offensively. Matching the circumstance and location is a way to show your subtlety.
Are appearances the leading factor to becoming a fashion model?
I think each person will have different views on this issue, but I personally do not appreciate appearance. When attending Fashion Week, at the party table with about 20 models from other countries, I realized that only a few people had really good appearances, the rest had average looks. However, their commonality was knowing their personal identity and understanding fashion and the brand they are wearing in particular, such as its history, message, core values.
Therefore, almost every day, I always spend time to cultivate fashion knowledge by myself, maybe about trends, as well as the story of the brand and how they use costumes to express our individual voices.
What strengths do you have to help you conquer this job?
I’m a very thoughtful person and always need to “peel off” good ideas to untangle myself, so I forged myself a habit of recording everything in a notebook. Taking notes helps Chau both systematize the flow of thoughts and ideas in the beginning and memorize things better.
In addition, I’m the type of person who is extremely serious and dedicated to my work. I know social media is the main work platform and understand young people follow me because they want to see beautiful images and useful information about fashion and lifestyle. Therefore, my daily work list always includes searching, selecting and updating new trends for you on my personal page.
These tasks might seem quite simple. But for me, inspiration only accounts for 30% of my motivation. Sometimes I’m ‘not in the mood’, but still force myself to sit down at the table, turn on the phone, search and write on paper, and then list for this and that plan. It is these proactive actions that help me generate drive for work.
When I’m updating photos every day on Facebook and Instagram or make vlogs on YouTube, inspiration alone is not enough. I usually spend about a week on planning and topics. Afterwards, I spend a day sitting in front of the computer, writing the content of the script I’m going to perform. Finally, I give myself a few hours to a day to practice in front of the mirror the way I will present yourself when filming.
Besides being able to try many different styles, what does Chau like about being a fashion model?
It is an opportunity to admire, exchange and learn from reality when participating in world fashion events. Being able to sit next to world-class influencers, listen to them and share their ideas on how to make fashion, is a rare occasion in life.
Moreover, it is a sense of pride and joy to introduce myself from Vietnam and to hear the compliments of costumes designed by Vietnamese designers. Impressive for them, though maybe not significant, but a success for me.
What about the challenges of the job?
Because the Vietnamese fashion market is still quite small, the number of fashion brands as well as the variety of styles is still limited. I often fly overseas to buy ‘secondhand’ items or order from overseas stores.
In addition, because fashion modelling in Vietnam is still a relatively new concept, and Vietnamese people still prefer traditional discreet wear, individual styles will be hard for people to absorb.
People wonder, where does a fashion model’s income come from?
My main income does not come from modelling or from Fashion Week runs. I’m a fashion model because of my passion for fashion. But with my position, Chau can find income from representing and advertising for brands. In addition, I also sell a brand of lipstick for students.
Could you name 3 people that made you who you are today?
Kat – my manager, Thang and my father.
Although Kat assumes a management role, she is like a close sister, and has always been beside me to encourage and inspire me from the beginning. In terms of fashion, Thang is the most influential person for me. Thang is a person who was born with style (laughs). And Dad is the one I admire most. Dad taught me lessons on how to treat people, how to perceive and live in society. Because in any situation, anywhere, good manners always play an important role.