January 31, 2011

The Goddess of Small Things

Print More

Thu (pronounced “two”) is a senior in the Fiber Science and Apparel Design department specializing in Apparel Design. If she weren’t a fashion designer, she would be a florist. And that is a huge compliment to flora as a species, because everything she touches is transformed into beauty. In fact, that is part of her genius — the ability to take lowly materials like cheesecloth and turn them into something rich and fascinating. Thu specializes in intricate hand techniques like hand sewing, embroidery and hand smocking. She has interned at Anna Sui and Carolina Herrera and she is interested in couture, bridal and other forms of wearable art. She was featured in the New York Times this month for her sustainable designs.

The Sun: Thu, being from a Vietnamese family in Texas, how did your childhood and culture influence your interest in fashion?    Thu: I was born in Vietnam and I grew up around a kind of home-grown fashion environment. I come from a family of seamstresses, sewers and fabric sellers. My aunts were sewers, my mom sold fabric and my dad swallowed a sewing pin when he was 9 years-old, so that was his part in fashion. In Vietnam people make their own clothes or have their clothes custom made for them, so clothing and fashion have always been  important in my life.

The Sun: I have named you “The Goddess of Small Things.” I think it’s pretty appropriate as an official title. (See Thu’s fingernails, which are painted with a toothpick into marbled constellations, an example of her fondness for minutia). When you design, do you start with small-scale techniques or the total look?  Thu: I actually start with a small-scale version of the total look! I begin by drawing lots of tiny little sketches. I like to think that they are little well-dressed stick figures.

The Sun: I notice you have two tattoos. Can you explain the small bow on your finger and the Italian phrase on your wrist? Thu: The small bow on my finger is “a string around my finger” so that I always remember the important things. The tattoo on my wrist says “cerca trova” which means “seek and you shall find.” It is from a mural by Giorgio Vasari that is believed to be hiding a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci (The Lost Leonardo). A soldier in Vasari’s painting holds a flag with the phrase “cerca trova” possibly hinting that behind Vasari’s painting is Leonardo’s painting.

The Sun: That’s beautiful. Considering your love of detail, how do you come down on minimalism vs. maximalism? Thu: I think they both have their merits, but design-wise I think I am more of a maximalist because I just think it’s more fun!

The Sun: What is your goal as a fashion designer?     Thu: I think that my designs make up for what I lack. They represent me at my best and at my worst. In a way, I think live vicariously through my design work. I am inspired and driven by insecurities, not just my own but those of my family, friends and people that I have encountered. I want to make women feel beautiful. I am not setting out to do anything else, because I would feel so honored to have been a part of that.

The Sun: Last summer you interned for Carolina Herrera, which is a high-end apparel firm that creates luxury sportswear, eveningwear and bridal. Which part of the company seemed the most vibrant to you? Thu: I loved the environment at Carolina Herrera. There was such a strong air of beauty, sophistication and class yet at the same time everyone was really down-to-earth, funny and friendly. Not to mention the clothes were spectacular — I fell in love every day I was there.

The Sun: The designer Vera Wang famously began designing bridal gowns because her father thought this was the most reliable part of the fashion industry — there will always be deaths and weddings — and he financed her on that condition. Although the demand for bridal is perennial, the bridal industry now has to keep up with fashion trends also. Thu: My favorite aspect of the bridal industry is that it is timeless. This aspect gives the industry an edge and keeping up with trends adds to this edge. In the end, it definitely comes down to how the trends are interpreted because not all trends can be adopted by the bridal industry. Color for instance is one, wedding dressing are pretty much going to be some variation of white. Plus, most women already have in their minds an idea of what their wedding dress would be. Trends might or might not have an influence on them.

The Sun: If you were designing Kate Middleton’s royal wedding dress this spring what would it look like? Thu: Hmm let’s see … I don’t know much about Kate so I am going to go off of the pictures that I have seen of her:  I can see her in a dress that is classic but with a twist. Maybe the combination of a classic, princess ball gown silhouette with marquisette petals trailing down over a sheer organza overlay. And the best part would be that when she walks, the layers of the skirt would undulate, almost like she was gliding.

The Sun: Coming back to Cornell, could you tell us about your inspiration for this year’s Cornell Fashion Collective runway show on Apr. 16th? What can we look forward to? Thu: I wanted to use this opportunity to do things that I have not done; this line is going to be about progress and change. I am treating each look as a separate idea, so it’s not going to be so much of a collective line, but more like random bubbles floating out of my head.  All in all its going to be a little bit of sugar, a little bit of spice and of course, all things nice!

The Sun: Thu, thanks for sharing with The Sun. Last question, what is your poison, what is your passion? Thu: My poison is spicy foods. I can’t eat anything spicy — it’ll kill me. My passion is “Golden Girls!” It’s my favorite show; it makes me look forward to growing old!

Original Author: Amelia Brown