NHU DUONG INTERVIEW (LOGO.EC 16.05.12)
Daughter of a tailoress and kung-fu master, designer Nhu Duong has lived all over the world and now spends her time creating collections between Stockholm and Berlin. Fusing conceptual inspirations with traditional craft techniques, her ultra-modern aesthetic has won her work with everyone from NOWHERE to Weekday to even Acne. Here, she talks to LOGO about A/W13, commercial challenges and the power of transformative fashion.
LOGO: I love how you’ve made conceptual styles look wearable in your A/W13 collection. Did you have a specific kind of theme/concept in mind when you put it together?
NHU: Thank you! The starting point was to create a sense of illegibility, of something that cannot be perfectly read. I used a distorted version of my own logo that appears as foil prints, as well as embroidered patches that cover the garments. It’s not quite clear whether the garments are being hold together or falling apart – the silhouette is somewhat distorted, with the outline and surface broken up.
LOGO: You’ve got a pretty futuristic aesthetic, although you’re known for working with traditional craftsmanship methods. Many labels are currently looking to the latest production trends (digital print, 3D print etc) – but do you think it’s important to retain that heritage element?
NHU: I think you have to conquer a technique, not the other way around. Often when directly applying new technologies, the work can appear trendy, relying on wow-effects that may seem dated only shortly after. I’m more interested in craftsmanship on a experimental or human level. My work often shows an experimentation with a certain lo-fi technique or material that’s then pushed towards the point of abstraction. I’m interested in the idea of function on a conceptual level. In a sense, the clothes are quasi-functional, even a bridal dress, raising certain questions about the functionality or purpose of clothes in general. I’m interested in this transformative power of fashion.
LOGO: You’ve done a lot of collaborations over the years – do you have any exciting projects coming up you can tell us about?
NHU: Besides the next collection of 1440 for [progressive retail concept] Weekday, I just finished the latest collection for my own line, which was photographed by the artists Max Pitegoff and Calla Henkel. I’m working on a bomber jacket with Nik Kosmas from AIDS 3D – also I’m currently working on an exhibition in New York this coming fall.
LOGO: You were born in Vietnam, emigrated to Sweden and studied in Florence, and now you’re based between Berlin and Stockholm – having lived and gained experiences in so many places, do you think travelling has left an impact on your work? Is there a particular place you have in mind behind your design aesthetic?
NHU: My back ground influences me personally. You may even recognize different cultural influences in my work – however, this is not really something I really think about or try to thematize. My points of reference are much more complex and fragmented. Moving to Berlin has allowed me to break away from the category of Swedish minimal design and situate my work in a larger cultural field, and younger generation of artists, musicians and designers.
LOGO: Obviously places like Stockholm and Berlin don’t have as established a reputation for high fashion as say, capitals like London or Paris yet, but do you think that’s set to change? What’s it like putting collections together in more up-and-coming style locations like this?
NHU: Since there is no real fashion scene in Berlin, I was forced to rethink my approach. Most of my friends are artists or musicians, and they often remind me what fashion can really do, which is much more performative and less about consumption. It’s very free here. However, Berlin’s strength is also its biggest weakness. Sometimes it feels that the lack of pressure makes time stand still. To make things happen, I think you need the energy from another place. That’s why I travel a lot between Scandinavia and Asia – but Berlin is definitely changing, and I can understand why so many international artists, musicans and designers choose Berlin as their home.
LOGO: You’re also Head of Design for NOWHERE – how would you say your designs there are different to the ones you make for your label? Do you ever find it challenging adapting your aesthetic to fit a brand that isn’t your own?
NHU: Doing commercial projects is rather exciting for exactly this reason. You have to find a way to translate your own personal aesthetic into a completely different context that may be quite different from your own. In a way, each of my collaborations bring out a different aspect of my work. While NOWHERE brings out certain feminine and playful elements out and Weekday is more sports-oriented, I can be much more abstract and experimental with my own designs.
LOGO: You’ve won a pretty impressive bunch of high-profile awards over the years – have you ever felt any pressure to live up to the hype those kinds of accolades generate?
NHU: Receiving awards can be an honor, but nothing I take too seriously because it is always relative. This may sound like a cliche, but personally it can sometimes be more rewarding if you manage to find just that right zipper or the right solution for a garment. I’m also most happy when I get direct feedback from the people that wear my clothes.
LOGO: What kind of themes/ideas/looks etc can we expect to see in your Spring/Summer 2014 collection?
NHU: Rather than having a strict theme for each collection, the boundaries between one collection and the other are quite fluid and organic – I experiment with several techniques, materials and cuts at the same time, bringing them together shortly before the end. Instead of moving on to the next theme or technique, I feel the desire to further explore and continue certain ideas. For S/S14, you’ll recognize aspects from the current collection being applied in a new way.
Interview: Charlotte McManus
Posted on 10/06/2013, in Fashion and tagged acne, AIDS 3D, berlin, charlotte mcmanus, designer interview, futuristic fashion, logo branded culture, logo.ec, nhu duong, nhu duong aw13, nowhere clothing, sweden, weekday clothing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.