Architect-turned-designer infuses fashion with Vietnamese culture
After graduating from Hanoi Architectural University in 2013, Cuong Dam had no idea that his life would suddenly change direction. After spending five years working as an architect, the young man found out that his true calling was in fashion.
“I realised that fashion is what I was really fit for. It wasn't something impulsive. My passion for fashion has been nurtured since I was a kid. I was fascinated by fabrics and interested in doing anything to make women be more beautiful,” he said.
Cuong decided to open a fashion shop selling his first creations.
|Cuong Dam says he is 'a transporter of Vietnamese culture’.|
However, it’s not easy for a newbie to enjoy fruitful results, and Cuong tasted several bitter experiences due to his lack of professional knowledge in the industry.
“I didn't have any knowledge then. Everything I have done at that time was based on my instinct. Materials, forms and designs – everything is new for an architect. I did everything by myself, from going to market to purchase fabric to finding garment workshops to turn my ideas and sketches into reality. Without any guidance from experienced people, and all the products were very basic, even rudimentary,” Cuong said.
During the first year, the young man struggled to figure out his target audience and what he needed to do to attract them. Nothing seemed to work. Revenue from selling clothing was just enough to pay for the rent of the shop.
It was then that Cuong realised passion alone wasn’t going to cut it, and that he needed professional knowledge. He decided to enrol in the London College for Design & Fashion (LCDF) in Hanoi to accumulate the necessary knowledge to become a designer.
Talking about the connection between architecture and fashion, Cuong said: “Although fashion and architecture seem unrelated, in fact, the art forms have similar principles in ratio, the connection of details creating a unified overall, structure, building and materials.
“All above all, both fashion and architecture have the mission of understanding the needs of people, thus creating works to satisfy those needs. Knowledge of architecture laid a solid foundation for me when I stepped into the fashion industry,” he said.
His collection Warriors in Yoshiwara presented at the 2020 Graduate Fashion Week was highly applauded by audiences and critics. The collection, which was created during nine months and honoured women's rights was named among the best 15 at the Vietnam NewGen Fashion Awards, organised by Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam and the LCDF.
Endless inspiration from traditional culture
The designer, who is co-founder of Chats by C. Dam – a luxury clothing brand, has found an endless inspirational source for his designs in the traditional women’s long dress known as the ao dai.
|His bag collection Đàm (The Conversation) was inspired by Vietnamese women's dress, the ao dai.|
“Traditional costumes are the unique beauty of the rich Vietnamese culture,” he said.
Inspired by the high-necked collar and the graceful flap of the dress, his newest collection of leather handbags entitled Đàm (The Conversation) has won high praise from fashion lovers.
Crafted from high-quality imported leather and traditional hand-stitching techniques, the bag straps simulate the high-necked collar of the dress. From different angles, the straps are reminiscent of graceful Vietnamese women wearing the dress. The triangle and rectangle geometrical shapes of the bags connecting with the straps are a modern minimalist style.
|From different angles, the bag straps remind of graceful images of Vietnamese women.|
Cuong said that the bag collection honoured not only Vietnamese culture but also elegant Vietnamese women.
“Like a conversation between the past and present to find out the voice of the times, from the original details of the ao dai, we have brainstormed to transform them into something new without devaluing its primary beauty. This is also how we at C. Dam have chosen to present the unique values of Vietnamese culture to the international audience,” the 31-year-old designer said.
Earlier, before the debut of the bag collection Đàm, Cuong presented a fashion collection entitled Hướng Tâm (Inflow). The collection was created with inspiration from an architectural detail seen at many heritage sites such as the Temple of Literature and One-Pillar Pagoda
|Models present creation designs from the collection 'Inflow' by C. Dam. — Photo courtesy of C. Dam|
“‘Inflow' are the lines running towards a centre that have been widely used by Vietnamese people in architecture, fine arts and fashion. This detail can be seen in the simple objects in the life of Vietnamese people such as paper fans, bell-shaped fishing traps, or the palm-leaved conical hat. The idea of ‘inflow’ has been presented in the details of every design in this collection,” he said.
Featuring pleated dresses, crop tops and blazers made from luxury silk and taffeta, the collection has been greeted by fashionistas not lonely for its elegance but for earning money for a meaningful cause – part of the revenue is being donated to the national COVID-19 vaccine fund.
The ambitious designer has been nurturing a fashion show and exhibition entitled Inflowing, which is scheduled to take place in the second quarter of next year.
“The mission of C. Dam is to be the transporter of Vietnamese imprints, through its contemporary and distinctive creations that cannot be mixed with global fashion. That mission will be continued in our next projects. We will keep digging further into Vietnamese culture to find new inspiration and develop them into creative designs,” Cuong said.
Source: Vietnam News
There has been a growing interest in ancient costumes in Vietnam over recent years.
Through thousands of years of changes in fashion, ao dai, the Vietnamese traditional long dress, has retained its proud position. Carrying the cultural traits through ages, ao dai has become a cultural symbol showing the Vietnamese identity.