Dressing celebrities is not an easy job. From red carpet events, street style photos, to magazine covers and photoshoots, stylists ensure that celebrities always look their best at any occasion. At the highest level, styling is one of the most coveted and versatile jobs in the industry. These individuals are considered musketeers in the fashion world, because they not only influence how the public audience sees fashion, beauty, and the latest trends, but they also inspire designers by articulating and showcasing their creations.
As Gen-Z gradually takes over the workforce across so many professions, Tigre Tran (Vietnamese name: Trần Thể Thế Thiên) stands out as a rising star representing the next generation of the fashion industry — in Vietnam and beyond.
The decision to take a different path from his musical family
Growing up in the late 90s, Tigre Tran was surrounded by music performers in his early life. His uncle is Trinh Cong Son, one of Vietnam’s greatest musicians of all time, and his mother is a singer. With such a strong musical background, it’s not surprising that young Tran also wanted to become a singer.
Coming from an artistic family created opportunities for Tran to nurture his love for fashion. Even as a child, Tran looked up to his mother as the ultimate fashion icon in his life. “However, being a stylist or even being in the fashion industry has never crossed my mind, until I went away to Canada for university where I majored in Stage Design and Installation Art, which I absolutely hated every minute of it,” Tran says. "With that being said, I feel grateful and blessed that I had those three years of experience that I can now, surprisingly, apply to my styling work.”
While the world went into an unexpected hibernation due to the pandemic, 2020 marked a new start for Tigre Tran and his styling career. He went back to Vietnam after the first COVID-19 outbreak and made a lot of new connections in the fashion world. “One thing led to another, the next thing I know, someone had offered me a job as a stylist for Oppo TVC [television commercials], and of course I said yes. That was my first big gig and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity because after the commercial had aired, my career took a really big turn.”
A rising star in the Vietnamese fashion industry
After his first fashion debut with Oppo, he is now busy styling high-profile celebrities like Châu Bùi, Suboi, Đức Phúc and Rap Việt contestants. His unique taste and versatility in artistically-inspired styling shine through in his high-end projects for Gucci, Cartier, and L’Officiel magazine, as well as commercial campaigns for Yadea and Grab.
When asked about his creative process and where he draws inspiration from, Tran says that his creative process includes “understanding the brief given, what the director or project is asking for and doing heavy historical and cultural research to create meaningful wearable art.”
My inspiration is from all sorts of places, one of them being 'lên đồng' [going into trance], a Vietnamese traditional ritual that includes lavish costumes, almost drag-like, with each costume dedicated to calling for a particular goddess – styling plays an important part in 'lên đồng' as it is a way to connect spiritual superpowers.
Whether styling for street or studio shoots, Tran’s aesthetic plays with different genres — mixing punk, Y2K and street to achieve hybrid silhouettes. This aligns with his “more is more” motto of layering concepts, cultures, and experiences as the core of authenticity and innovation.
Every stylist wants to create looks with strong visual statements that will be remembered by history. Among Tran’s most prominent works, Suboi’s No Nê album visualizer video is a clear representation of his maximalist ethos. According to Tran, the outfits in No Nê pair contemporary art along with classic Vietnamese culture, and dose of "artistic insanity.”
Tran’s journey would not be complete without the support of his boyfriend, Alex Fox, the creative director of L’Officiel. “I met Alex on my birthday at Bam Bam and the rest is history. He has taught me so many things and honestly, I owe a big part of where I am today to him,” Tran says, “Without his guidance, I think it would have taken me longer to figure out the ropes in this industry. But I think the most important lesson that he has taught me was patience, and how important it is to keep a cool head when working.”
Reflecting on his journey, Tran finds himself facing both challenges and opportunities. “For the first time in my life, and if I can say so, in all of our lives, there was a pause to our daily routines and the fast-paced, non-stop, go-getting life we live. The previous Monday-Friday to-do lists, appointments and meetings, and weekend social commitments that once filled our weeks, months, and years were no more,” he shares.
“But of course, even in this strange void that may cause me anxiety, depression and doubt, there is also a unique opportunity to be found. Being able to spend so much time with my family, my boyfriend was a plus for me. It also gave me all the time to learn new things like meditating which I think really helped me cope with the situation.”
Hopes for the future
In Vietnam, many readers have heard about models, fashion designers, and even influencers that have only emerged after 2015, but not many knew about stylists and their hard work in the industry, even though the term has existed for decades. Stylists are often neglected because of the misconception that all they do is “picking out” clothes, when in reality, the contributions they make by dressing fashion icons are much more significant than what we all thought.
Have you ever wondered why some old fashion pieces that we all thought no one would ever wear again suddenly made their comeback after making an appearance in the Met Gala? Constant reinvention of classic cuts and elements might have its technical limits, but stylists can still make celebrities stand out by rethinking the dialogue between clothing and the body and the lifestyles of the celebrities to enhance the style of the outfit and the person wearing it. This makes stylists an essential part of the fashion chain.
The expansion of social media platforms like Instagram has created more opportunities for styling works to be known and appreciated. Stylists like Tran are now able to give fans and viewers a glimpse into their career, sharing their process of styling clients in designer pieces, insights on upcoming trends, as well as fashion tips to create an incredible look from head to toe.
With that being said, Tran has a positive outlook for the future of the fashion industry. “The most impressive thing about the Vietnamese local brands is the rate at which they are growing. I am especially stoked to see some of the local brands making it international, like Fanci Club (started as a depop shop) dressing Doja Cat or Vaegabond’s pants seen on Offset,” he says. “In 10 years, I really hope to see more brands making it international because I know we got the stuff! Putting Vietnam on the world map is what I hope we can achieve.”
“However, fast fashion is still a huge concern when mentioning the Vietnamese local scene as 90% of the brands are non-sustainable. Thus, I hope more brands will see the importance of sustainable fashion and change for the better in the years to come.”
For young people who are looking for ways to build a career in styling, Tran gives advice on some important qualities to have, “patience, deep understanding of body and face, willingness to go beyond trends — clients hire you for your creativity and skills to create a look specifically catered to them, and lastly, interpersonal skills.”