What They Don’t Teach You At Design School: KAZE Alumni Then And Now | Vietcetera
Relax

What They Don’t Teach You At Design School: KAZE Alumni Then And Now

KAZE alumni stop by the office to reminisce about the good old days and share how being part of their alma mater’s journey helped them become successful too.

What They Don’t Teach You At Design School: KAZE Alumni Then And Now

KAZE Alumni Uyen Tran, Mariia Ivanova, and Marine Bachellerie | Source: KAZE

When employees move on to other companies, invitations to after-work drinks and end-of-the-year parties from former colleagues and bosses usually stop flowing in. Not at KAZE Interior Design Studio. As the company founded by Fong-Chan Zeuthen marks 10 years in business, KAZE alumni stop by the office to reminisce about the good old days and share how being part of the KAZE journey helped them become successful too.

Ads

Mariia Ivanova

Mariia Ivanova— Russiaborn interior designer Source Mariia Ivanova
Mariia Ivanova— Russia-born interior designer | Source: Mariia Ivanova

In a throw-back to her years with KAZE, Russia-born interior designer speaks about her time working on Le Meridien Cam Ranh Resort & Spa and soaking up new cultures on company trips to Bangkok and Taipei.

How did you end up working in interior design in Vietnam? 

Like many great things in life, it happened spontaneously. In 2015, I arrived in Vietnam planning to be a beach bum in Nha Trang for a few months but Vietnam quickly got its hooks into me and I decided to stay. As my background is in interior design, I applied for jobs in that field. When I saw there was a position available at KAZE, I seized the opportunity to start a new journey that lasted more than four years.

What was your role with KAZE? 

During my time with KAZE, in addition to handling projects, I was in charge of sourcing suppliers and managing the sample room. My responsibility was to keep the team informed about new materials in the market and to research up-and-coming suppliers. And I would run workshops to make sure everyone was up to speed with new trends and developments. I had my hands full!

Do you remember your first impression of the KAZE office?

I remember being very impressed with all that open space and how smartly it was laid out. At KAZE they really take care of you, making sure you have all the resources to create. Whatever tool you need to bring your ideas to life, they’ve got it. In such an environment, it's easy to feel inspired. 

What is KAZE corporate culture like?

Fong-Chan is really focused on personal and professional growth. She pushes you to constantly challenge yourself. I remember the weekly workshops when we would study iconic buildings and famous architects from around the world. I would always walk out of these sessions inspired and armed with new ideas.

And every year we would go abroad on company trips. I was part of the Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Taipei trips to look at interesting hotel and restaurant designs, absorbing new cultures and bringing that wealth of new material to our post-trip workshops.

Professionally, what was the most valuable lesson you learned during your time with KAZE? 

The value of communication and teamwork. In Moscow, at my previous company, we had a strict hierarchy where decisions were made at the top and instructions passed down the chain of command. Things are different at KAZE. You learn how to arrive at joint decisions and work side by side to come with up solutions together.

Things are different at KAZE You learn how to arrive at joint decisions and work side by side to come with up solutions together Source KAZE
Things are different at KAZE. You learn how to arrive at joint decisions and work side by side to come with up solutions together. | Source: KAZE

In your opinion, what project that you were part of best represents KAZE style and approach? Why?

For me, it’s Le Meridien Cam Ranh Resort & Spa, an international hospitality project that I worked on for two years. I was in charge of room design and room variation and worked closely with the Marriott team. What I found particularly interesting is that though Le Meridien is part of the Marriott group, an international hospitality company, it has its own distinctive guidelines and standards. I found the work flow and connection between KAZE, the developer and the operator very stimulating. 

Where do you go in Saigon to feed your visual inspiration? 

It never fails to impress me how many visually interesting stores, coffee shops and hotels open in Saigon on an almost weekly basis. Some are delivered on a shoestring budget and are great examples of Vietnamese resourcefulness.

Do your local customers generally follow global trends in interior design or their tastes are unique to Vietnam?

When I first moved here, I noticed one similarity between the tastes of affluent Russian and Vietnamese clients – both are fond of gold and bling. But of late, there’s been a marked trend towards minimalist, Scandinavian-inspired interiors and it’s the younger generation that is driving it. Unlike their elders who want elaborate interiors, Millennials and Gen Zers are attracted to more contemporary, modern lines. 

Fear of Missing Out?

Signup to receive a collection of this week’s top stories in your inbox every Tuesday.

Uyen Tran

Uyen Tran of Jotun Paints Source Uyen Tran
Uyen Tran of Jotun Paints | Source: Uyen Tran

Uyen was a fresh graduate when Fong-Chan welcomed her on board in 2013. Although no longer an interior designer (she’s been with Jotun Paints since 2016), Uyen still often collaborates with KAZE.

Why did you choose a career in interior design? 

I love drawing and beautiful spaces. As a realistic person, I felt that interior design would provide a solid career. In 2012, when I was fresh out of university and looking to get a foothold in the field, I saw an interview Fong-Chan gave to Elle Magazine. Impressed, I reached out and got a job as junior interior designer. In retrospect, KAZE was a great career springboard. 

What was working at KAZE like?

At KAZE, I was always treated like family. Even today, every time I visit, the team welcomes me with open arms, really making me feel like part of the family, even though it’s been four years since I left.

When it comes to professional development, among the many things I learned under the leadership of Fong-Chan is the value of teamwork and the art of time management: how to be efficient and get things done. 

I was always treated like family Even today every time I visit I still feel part of the family even though it’s been four years since I left Source KAZE
I was always treated like family. Even today, every time I visit, I still feel like part of the family, even though it’s been four years since I left. | Source: KAZE

What project that you were part of best represents KAZE style and approach? 

I was on the team that worked on Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint, one of KAZE's signature projects. To bring Fong-Chan's vision to life, we needed to be perfectly aligned on what we aimed to achieve. As a result of that impressive teamwork, not only did we design one of the city's most iconic hotels, but the project is also the perfect showcase of the spirit and style of KAZE.

What career tips do you have for those getting started in the field of interior design?

If you are already passionate about interior design, find the right company that will show you the ropes and give you a good start in your career. And make sure you maintain the passion that brought you into the profession in the first place. Interior design is a tough job so find a company where you can spend a workday with joy and passion. KAZE is the place.

Ads

 Marine Bachellerie

Marine Bachellerie found the perfect outlet for her creativity at KAZE Source Marine Bachellerie
Marine Bachellerie found the perfect outlet for her creativity at KAZE. | Source: Marine Bachellerie

Now living in the Caribbean, Marine was part of the KAZE team from January 2015 until March 2018. Passionate about travel, art and fashion, she found the perfect outlet for her creativity at KAZE.

What was your role with KAZE?

Thanks to KAZE, in my four years with the studio I became a hospitality projects specialist. Apart from that, I was in charge of meeting suppliers and organizing our materials room to keep everyone up to date with new trends.

What is KAZE corporate culture like?

KAZE is a mix of different cultures: Danish management combining local and foreign designers. I believe that’s what creates the richness of KAZE projects; this fusion of different ways of life and past histories all mixed together to create strong design concepts.

Professionally, what was the most valuable lesson you learned during your time with KAZE?

Work smart, not hard!

In your opinion, what project that you were part of best represents KAZE style and approach? 

Courtyard by Marriott in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. It was our first international hospitality project and one where we had to skillfully navigate the expectations of a Cambodian client and the guidelines of an American hotel operator (Marriott). The resulting design is truly timeless – a cozy urban hotel built with mostly local materials that puts a modern twist on Cambodian heritage.

Did your local customers follow global trends in interior design or their tastes are unique to Vietnam?

During my time in Vietnam, I couldn't help but notice that the country was becoming more and more open-minded. In interior design particularly, lots of international brands entered the market and new materials became available. I believe social media played a part too. So, I would say that local customers tend to follow global interior design trends. And that’s also the reason why they choose KAZE– for their foreign expertise.

What career tips do you have for those getting started in the field of interior design?

Travel. Open yourself to new cultures, get out of your comfort zone, be interested in what is happening elsewhere in the world. Be prepared to put in a lot of hard work, sometimes late at night, but also know that it will be worth it.

This field requires knowledge of the principles of decoration, and of furniture and materials, as well as technical skills. It’s important to try everything to discover what makes you tick before deciding what to focus on in your career. Interior design touches people in their everyday life, from home to office to restaurants they frequent … It’s very rewarding!

This field requires knowledge of the principles of decoration and of furniture and materials as well as technical skills Source KAZE
This field requires knowledge of the principles of decoration, and of furniture and materials, as well as technical skills. | Source: KAZE