Trần Phương My, creative director of her brand PHUONG MY, will present her fall/winter collection “Sayonara” at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) 2019 in the US on February 12. My, a graduate of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, took part in Arab Fashion Week in Dubai in 2017 and Vancouver Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019 last September in Canada. Her designs have been featured in British Vogue, Vogue US, and Collezioni Italy. She now has 37 stores in 20 countries and territories. The 31-year-old designer talks to Phương Mai about her preparation for NWFW and her desire to take her Vietnamese brand to the global stage.
Inner Sanctum: How did you prepare for New York Fashion Week?
New York Fashion Week is not a goal. If it was a goal, I would prepare many things for it. I think it’s just a start for what will happen and what I will do later.
PHUONG MY is turning seven this year. The past six years contain a story of the brand. It is a journey of brand building, a process that my staff and I have done day by day to take one more step forward and make the work better and better.
The show in New York represents progress on this journey, so I don’t feel pressure. I think that pressure will actually happen after NYFW.
Inner Sanctum: What was your inspiration for your fall/winter collection?
PHUONG MY in New York is not different from PHUONG MY in Dubai or Canada. I always keep my brand’s core value so that at the end of the show, people know that it is PHUONG MY. It doesn’t look similar to any other fashion brand. Similarity can destroy a brand.
PHUONG MY always aims to honour traditional characteristics and beauty of the Asian woman: feminine and delicate but bold. It is the great inspiration for all my collections that have been presented overseas.
Inner Sanctum: What kind of fabric have you used for the collection?
PHUONG MY is strong at silk. Depending on the fashion season, silk is woven in different styles. To prepare for the show at NYFW, PHUONG MY has worked with fabric manufacturers from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong to make a unique kind of silk. The fabric is stiff, but also ‘floating’, to honour Asian beauty.
Inner Sanctum: How many designs will you present at the show?
For a collection, I often make 50-60 designs consisting of around 100 items, because each design has layers and layers. For the show, I will cut a few designs depending on which ones are strong and will reflect the brand’s story.
When I introduce the products at a department store or for selling, I will give a full collection. But for the show, I will only know how many designs I will present just one or two days before the event.
Inner Sanctum: What is your future goal – to continue to expand your brand or open more stores?
I opened seven more stores last year. This month, I will open a new one at Harvey Nichols, a department store which I think is the best luxury shopping venue in the Middle East.
PHUONG MY had specific progress last year, achieving many goals. However, media and readers often pay attention to New York Fashion Week and the show. But they don’t know what my staff and I have done to reach that goal and to nurture the brand. Opening more stores, seeking different goals, and doing business to earn money for the show are part of that.
I think what a designer often does after NYFW is to come back to Việt Nam to sell their products. For example, as a designer, I want to show off overseas to get the title of international designer, not only Vietnamese designer, and then return to Việt Nam to sell clothes. It’s very personal.
When I nurture a brand, I must think of business and future steps, and what I’ll get from my investment.
It’s not just what NYFW will bring to PHUONG MY, but also what PHUONG MY brings to NYFW. It’s different. After the show, it’s all about where I sell the clothes, who will be my new clients, and what achievements I’ll have in the international fashion scene. PHUONG MY’s major market is now Việt Nam and the Middle East, so new markets may open for PHUONG MY after the show.
Inner Sanctum: What about Europe?
PHUONG MY has appeared in two or three European countries. In fact, entering Europe or America means that I have to compete with designers who are my idols and my inspiration. They are the people from whom I learned and read about in books when I was at school. I need a sustainable journey to reach these goals. And I am not in a hurry to do that. I hope PHUONG MY takes specific steps and gains a specific status in the international market to stand together with famous brands.
Inner Sanctum: How can you take a Vietnamese brand to the global stage?
To me, fashion goes beyond an individual. You can’t evaluate a brand through an individual’s ability. That is disregard for your own brand. You must set an annual goal, and the company’s staff must know. You all must strive to reach it. You can’t call it a dream. It’s a step which you and every member in the company must go. No one reason or one individual can prevent you from stepping forward.
When entering the international market, fashion tells a story that is bigger than a designer’s story, because it represents Vietnamese staff and human resources. It shows that a “Made in Việt Nam” brand is able to stand beside brands that are hundreds of years old. The story also shows where the brand’s status is, how clients and fashion makers think about the brand, and what you will do next.
Previously, when talking about Vietnamese fashion, people thought of Nike, Adidas and Uniqlo. That’s a fact. Việt Nam is strong in garment processing. But I believe Vietnamese can go further and the world needs to know. It is what I want to transfer through an overseas show. It’s a lot of pressure.
PHUONG MY was invited to attend NYFW twice in a two-year period. The organisers told me in a meeting that no brand had been invited twice. I received the invitation last year and this year. If I had received an invitation for the first time, I would have accepted immediately. But I am a brand maker and am putting my first steps into the international market. These steps must be firm to ensure that opportunities from NYFW will come for PHUONG MY.
How I will grab them and what will be my next step are both important. That’s the way to build a brand and to make fashion. It’s not about what designer Phương My has done and the celebrities who’ve worn PHUONG MY’s designs. Branding is larger than these things.
The world needs to know about Vietnamese fashion in a different way. Royal members of countries in the Middle East are wearing PHUONG MY, and PHUONG MY stores are set up near stores of the world’s biggest fashion brands at the best luxury department stores in the Middle East. PHUONG MY is truly a “Made in Việt Nam” brand. VNS