Chad Nguyen of CHADDIE may be pegged as one to watch by the Australian fashion media, but this savvy designer recognises that in order to succeed in the long run, he has to keep those creative wheels turning.
Chad grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, before moving to Sydney four years ago to pursue his studies in Fashion Design at the Raffles College of Design and Commerce. You could say fashion runs in the blood. Chad’s grandfather was a tailor; his mum was the owner of a fashion boutique and his dad was constantly tinkering with fabrics and textiles, even jewellery. Quite the fashionable family we’d admit, and yet, Chad held absolute fashion authority in the family, picking out items of clothing and accessories for his mother and sisters.
Realising his affinity for fashion, Chad started his eponymous label, CHADDIE in his second year of college, releasing a small capsule sportswear collection that sold out in-store. During his senior year, CHADDIE was chosen as one of seven to showcase at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2016 (MBFW 2016) in May.
We already see glimpses of a world-ready designer in Chaddie’s blend of flattering and feminine pieces. There’s a comforting sense of the classic, interlaced with a chic, modern and playful spirit — perhaps qualities of the women he draws inspiration from.
We chat to Chad about women as his muse and the highs and lows of being a new designer.
First off, congratulations on your Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week debut! Could you tell us more about your experience?
It was absolutely exciting and I still remember the vibe. I was preparing for my graduation showcase at the Raffles College Graduate Show in December 2015, and just one week before the show, my professor told me I had been selected to present my debut collection at MBFWA 2016. After the graduate showcase was over, Marie Claire Australia posted a photo of my creations on Instagram and I knew it was the right time for me to start bringing CHADDIE to a serious level. I was working on the collection for three months, and the experience was extremely hectic. From conceptualisation, sketching, fabrication and pattern-making to manufacturing, photo shoots and PR plans…it was all so real and one day I woke up and it hit me. I asked myself: “Am I actually one of the Australian-based fashion designers now? Am I really going to debut my first collection in a few months?” The moment I saw my name amongst all the big fashion houses and senior designers such as Dion Lee, Ellery and Toni Maticevski, I knew that all my hard work would eventually get me somewhere. I just gotta keep working hard everyday.
What has the experience taught you?
Be patient, be kind, be passionate and stay positive. Find the fun in everything that you’re going through.
What was the inspiration behind your latest Cruise ’16 Collection?
Cruise ’16 was a celebration of women. The 10 looks represented 10 different personalities and attitudes that women possess, expressed through a variety of style and silhouette. The colourway was strongly inspired by a certain mood — each one defines a specific female character. I’d envision where she’d go, how she looks like, what’s her motivation, her passion and her sense of lifestyle.
I have been surrounded by women all my life — my mother, my sisters, my best friend. I observe my mom in her gold silk pajamas, looking stylish but still feeling comfortable, or my sister wearing that funky striped trench coat to work. Everyone has inspired me so much in this collection. I want to create a collection that every female can see herself in it and relate to.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative and design process? How does a collection typically start to form?
First, I would start with an idea or concept. I identify the sort of things I want to look into. It could be an artwork, an artist or a selection of music, color or texture. I love to be inspired by the street. I usually take my sketchbook with me around the city, paying close attention to people, architecture and my surroundings. A busy morning at the train station or lady holding a coffee in her hand while rushing to work could easily inspire me. I would be like “Hmm, if her shirt cuffs were a little longer and sturdier, they would be so striking”. Simple things in life inspire me.
What does a typical day of work involve for you?
At the moment, I’m quite busy with the FW 2017 collection, which will be showcased at Vietnam Designer Fashion Week, an event that’s held in my hometown. I start the day designing, putting pieces and details together, and playing around with fabrics and textiles for the remainder of the day. I hardly stop for lunch, usually slipping bites in between emails, editing my website or posting updates on Instagram. For me, it’s all about fashion.
What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced since starting and running CHADDIE?
Keeping the brand on the run! I’ve tried my best to avoid blank space. I got to keep my brand going, that’s why media works are important too as I’ll need to keep my brand interesting with new editorials, streetstyle photos, news… CHADDIE has only been launched in Sydney since May 2016 and going to be launched in Vietnam in November 2016, the brand is still new and fresh and I have to keep it going.
How have your Vietnamese roots contributed towards your unique sensibility towards fashion?
The fashion industry in Vietnam is growing rapidly. The buyers and customers in Vietnam go crazy for big houses like Chanel or Dior but a great thing about them is that they also love wearing local designers. There are many Vietnamese designers that are dedicated and possess great fashion instincts and they’re doing really well there. As a Vietnamese currently living in Sydney, I like the fact that I get to have that cultural knowledge and awareness and apply it to my work. In one of my designs from the Cruise ’16 collection, you can sense a low-key inspiration that came from the Ao Dai — a traditional Vietnamese garment. I love Vietnam. I’m proud of where I came from and I love to celebrate it.
How does it feel to have garnered some measure of industry support so early on in your career?
It’s just unbelievable. I will never forget the feeling. For such a new and young designer like myself who just graduated a few months ago, it is such an honor and I couldn’t be more grateful.
What changes would you like to see in future fashion weeks? Do you feel there is enough industry support for new design talent?
I genuinely feel there’s been strong support for emerging designers. It’s not just the industry but I also think the designers should be the ones to chase the opportunities. For me, I believe that success won’t come if you sit and wait for it…you have to chase it and grab it. Of course, if you’re hardworking and talented, I believe the effort will pay off.
What advice do you have for budding designers with global ambitions or anybody involved in creative work?
I think I should be the one to ask for advice (laughs). I mean, all of us emerging designers, we have to really enjoy what we’re doing and keep up the hard work. You won’t become a star overnight but as long as you believe in yourself and do your best, opportunity will present itself and that will be up to you if you’re going to take it or leave it. Also, when it comes to designing, [always try to] break out of the box.
Who are some of the designers and creatives who you think are doing great work?
I love Christopher Kane and Raf Simons. Their work inspires me so much. I do enjoy the work of Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton too.
What are you working on now and what are you looking forward to in the near future?
I’m currently working on my upcoming FW17 collection which will be showcased at Vietnam Designer Fashion Week 2017 this November, and alongside that I’m finding stockists for the Cruise ’16 collection, I’m opening a Pop Up Showroom this November in Vietnam and I can’t wait to launch my Cruise ’16 collection there and also present my upcoming pieces from FW17.