Headless Founder Quang Minh On Shaping Vietnamese Streetwear
Streetwear has been predominant on the global runway for years. It didn’t start to impact the Vietnamese fashion scene until early 2015—when the rise of social media in Vietnam provided a platform for the first Vietnamese streetwear-focused groups like Than Kinh Giay, Vietnamese Street Style Group and #HNBMG. It’s a cultural trend that many believe is a new chapter for Vietnam’s local fashion industry.
Ho Chi Minh City-based brand Headless have a distinctive unisex style and monochromatic color palette. They could be the next big thing in Vietnamese fashion. In order to learn more about the brand, we headed over to their shop at 135/58 Tran Hung Dao in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 to talk with their founder, Quang Minh, about the future of streetwear in Vietnam, and how he plans to bring Headless to international attention.
Why did you start Headless? And how has the label evolved since then?
Before starting Headless, I worked in design media for more than ten years. During that time, my wife, Lam Thuy Nhan, started her own fashion label, Ren. I would go to Ren’s workshop to make my own clothes when I couldn’t find what I wanted elsewhere. Once Ren started gaining traction, Nhan encouraged me to establish my own label. In 2015, I founded Headless, a place where I could sell the kind of clothes that fit my own personal aesthetic.
Throughout that first year we experimented quite a bit, but at that point, we still didn’t have an outlet to sell our merchandise. We’d make our clothes and play with designs which we displayed in a small corner of Ren’s store. Eventually, she needed the space for herself so we got the boot. I began looking for a place of my own and ended up moving to this location at 135/58 Tran Hung Dao three years ago.
What makes Headless stand out from other streetwear brands?
Headless might be perceived as a darkwear, techwear, or even as just another streetwear brand depending on who you’re talking to. But for me, Headless is simply my personal fashion statement. I love underground culture: things like manga, anime, and hardcore rock. These kinds of underground scenes have been a major influence on my aesthetic. At Headless, basic items such as T-shirts, hoodies, skinny jeans, and baggy trousers always carry a twist. One of my latest designs was a pair of shorts inspired by the attire of Samurai warriors.
What kinds of people walk through your door?
Some have said my designs are niche and do not serve the majority. And, to an extent, this is true. But as a gender-neutral clothing brand, I can confidently say that Headless attracts a diverse customer profile. We also make clothes for kids—lots of customer orders came through unexpectedly after they saw the clothes I made for my son, Hehe.
Would you ever change your monochromatic color scheme?
I rarely think of changing the color scheme, to be honest. But if I ever had to, then it would definitely be pink. Men actually look good in pink. A few years ago, for Women’s Day, I changed the entire Headless signature collection from black to pink and it sold out really fast.
What obstacles have you encountered while developing new ranges of products?
Headless is a Vietnamese-based label designed by a Vietnamese creative. Honestly, that part is and always will be challenging because in order to keep that philosophy true, I must source all my fabrics and products from Vietnam. And finding high-quality fabrics in local markets is difficult, especially when it comes to faux leather and decorative trims.
Selling free size clothing presents another obstacle. In order to ensure every garment fits each customer, I have to imagine what the clothes look like on various body types—even before sketching. The shape of each person’s body sometimes results in a completely different look, even when the design is the same. So, for some garments, we have to offer two sizes. Otherwise, we’ll provide made-to-measure services for customers who want the garment specifically tailored for their body shape.
Can local brands one day compete with global streetwear brands like Supreme or Fear of God?
In my opinion, there’s not a huge difference in quality between global brands and Vietnamese ones. In recent years, there’s been a wave of local supporters working to elevate our brand culture. You’ll notice some Vietnamese streetwear enthusiasts who exclusively wear local designs. As a local brand owner, that momentum is what keeps me going.
What kind of support does the streetwear scene here need to go to the next level?
When traveling to other countries like Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia, I noticed that the thing we’re missing is support from the government. In these countries, everybody—including the government—prefers to support locally-made products over international brands. Thailand is a good example. There, local brands are offered cheaper retail space than international brands. This kind of action is a strong incentive for the fashion community to grow.
What’s next for Headless? Do you have any exciting projects coming up in the near future?
I would love to get into sneaker production. As I said before, Headless was started simply to satisfy my own interests, and sneakers are definitely one of them. Although I wouldn’t call myself a “sneakerhead,” I’ve had a love affair with sneakers since I was a teenager. I have about 80 pairs of kicks in my collection. To be honest, I have to hide some of them in the warehouse so my wife won’t notice. In my defense, I can claim I’m saving them for my son to inherit one day.
I also want to collaborate with other local brands more. But before I can do that, I need to further develop my own brand.
What are some things about you that people might not know?
Regarding my design philosophy, I admire Mastermind from Japan and Y-3, a brand by Adidas in collaboration with Yohji Yamamoto. I also get inspiration from designers like Rick Owens and Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White.
And Headless is not my only job. Currently, I’m also working as COO for Zeroz, a branch of Yeah1. Plus I’m a vocalist in a hardcore band called Razo Leaf.
Who should we talk to next?
Nam Pham and Luu Huynh. They are the owners of G-LAB and also admins of “Than Kinh Giay.” They are pioneers in Vietnam’s sneaker community. I also admire my friend Nhat Minh for his aesthetic and design philosophy. He’s the owner of Zéro and 21stUrban.