Fashion Forward Q&A with Fashion Design Student Teresa Nguyen

BY: BEATRIZ GUERRERO

Design is a form of artistry that allows for the development of creativity and invention in order to create a final aesthetic product. Fashion design gives artisans the opportunity to develop their product with unique workmanship in the creation of clothing specifically.

California State University Long Beach’s Fashion Merchandising students spend their undergraduate careers molding their own ideas and working towards their final senior project, which is a spot in the annual Campus Couture Fashion show held on campus every spring.  

Roughly 300 students take part in the show, including designers, models, volunteers and the directing committee. The show itself expects to bring anywhere from 800 to 1,000 attendees.

Among the participating student designers is Teresa Nguyen, a senior designer in the department of Fashion Merchandising who is participating  in Campus Couture. Her collection of designs includes three dresses, three tops, two pants, one skirt and possibly five jackets.

Nguyen grew up with a more realistic picture of what pursuing fashion design was like. She reminisced on her childhood as she recalled waking up to industrial sewing machine sounds in the middle of the night because her mom was a seamstress in the fashion industry. Thinking back to how her mother would sew a minimum of 500 sleeves in one night for only a nickel each, allowed Nguyen to see the rigorous workload that came with a career in fashion, and ultimately it made her grow to hate the industry, the sounds, the pay and everything that came with it.

However, this would progressively change. Once she reached high school, she learned a little more about big name designers like Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Christian Dior.  Although these highly priced designer labels had such a huge significance to the industry, they weren’t as significant to Nguyen, because the high prices simply weren’t feasible with her family’s income. She notes that it wasn’t until just two years ago that for a family of five, her family income surpassed 20k.

Pricing aside, the clothes still meant something to her in the sense that they were able to change people’s lives. It was then that she contemplated the idea of being a designer of some sort. She was initially interested in video game design, animation, graphic design, architecture and interior design, but in the end clothing design prevailed. The idea that colors, textures and patterns could shine light on people’s characteristics and personalities fascinated her. It gave her the visualization that she could hold the power to change people’s lives and self-esteem with her designs. Ironically, she chose fashion design as her career, which was the very same line of work she held so much hate for as a child.

Who do you design for?

My designs for my own brand are for college graduates who are 25 to 30 years old. They’re most likely well-off with a salary job and have a hobby or interest in automobiles.

What is your inspiration for the collection?

Mainly my brothers. There are a lot of zippers in my garments as a representation of the split roads we have taken and how in the end, we all come back together as a whole.  Their love for cars inspires my styling, and I design around the idea of certain car silhouettes and interior pieces.

Where do you seek inspiration?

Everywhere. Inspiration is definitely everywhere, but you just have to think outside of the box and be willing to go crazy. The easiest inspiration would definitely be Google, Pinterest, Tumblr and DeviantArt. However, the easiest route isn’t the most fun. For this collection, I went to a couple of car shows and saw a couple of documentaries and movies about different cars like the Nissan Datsun. Then I just sit at my desk and sketch designs until I fry my brain.

What pieces are in your collection, and which are you most excited about?

I’m having an extremely hard time choosing which pieces to use for the final collection. All the pieces are quite artistic and definitely not every day wear. I did finalize two dresses to be in the collection, though! I am most excited about creating boyfriend style fake leather bomber jackets.

What is your design process, and how much time do you invest weekly?

The design process varies. Finding inspiration for my collection took a couple of hours. Sketching took me at most a day. I had 15 different designs for only dresses. Finding the right material took me a week. It should have only taken me at most 3 days, but I have two part-time jobs and two internships to juggle. I resorted to online shopping for trims most of the time, because I couldn’t find anything close to what I wanted in the physical stores.  I invest whatever time I have, which is usually around 20 hours per week, but 50 hours if I don’t sleep. I usually don’t sleep. My first dress required mainly hand-stitching, which took more than 300 hours. There were a lot of all-nighters.

Jasmin Garcia, Head Coordinator for Campus Couture 2015-16, says that the 28th Annual Campus Couture Fashion Show will be held on May 6 at 7 p.m. at CSULB’s Carpenter Performing Arts Center.

“We will have the founders of Parker Whitaker Productions as guest judges who offer a slot within LA Fashion Week to the winner of the 'Best in Show Award.' Other judges are still to be determined,” she says.

Some awards such as “Most Marketable,” "Best Couture" and "Rising Star" are offered to the most promising junior designers. Senior designers, like Teresa Nguyen, are required to take part in the show and the cost this year is $150.