Nhu Duong is best known for pushing the boundaries of clothing and its place within traditional ideas of culture. She aims to bring out the transformative power of fashion within each new collection. Whitelies sat down with Berlin based designer to talk about her latest collection, benefits of a diverse cultural background and the future of fashion.
For Autumn Winter 2018 Nhu Duong continues to explore the themes of transformation and metamorphosis. Taking phenomena of abnormal or excessive hair as a starting point, the collection becomes a surrealist experimentation with notions of animalism and mutation. The collection evokes a sense of a werewolf-like transformation, with faux-fur trimmings, appliqués and accessories scattered across the collection. Gatherings, loose threaded knits and layers exposing the inside, furthering this struggle of materials. Each garment becomes an exercise in restraint and strength, balancing bursts of wildness from within.
You were born in Vietnam, grew up in Stockholm, worked in New York and now you are living in Berlin. How has this diverse cultural background shaped your personal vision?
Fashion is about transformation. Fashion can help you to adjust to such change. When you move to a new country as a child – as I immigrated from Vietnam to Sweden – you naturally try to adjust to your new surroundings and reinvent yourself to a certain degree. Fashion can be a very direct expression of that, taking things you may know from one cultural context and putting them in another. This is where my interest in imitation lies: synthetic materials that look natural, cultural codes applied in new ways, organic shapes rendered artificial or garments that look like they should have a different function.
Transformation and metamorphosis are recurring themes in your work. Where does this fascination come from?
I believe in the fluidity of culture, gender, body types and class so the process in transformation is something that has always interested me.
Your AW 18 collection plays with notions of animalism and phenomena of hair. What inspired you in this conceptual approach?
The collection is an animalistic interpretation of transformation in the sense of metamorphosis. The collection is about becoming animal, mutating but also shame. Hairiness can be a distant reminder of our primal instincts and animal past that we cannot control.
Do you see yourself as an experimentalist? Combining different materials and textures are clearly central aspects of your work.
Since I was a child I was drawn to shiny materials and objects, making no distinction whether things are real or fake, kitsch or expensive. This is probably has to do with my Vietnamese heritage, where for example plastic flowers often more popular than real ones. I think this fixed idea of identity or notion what is real is what I often try to challenge.
In previous projects you have already worked with nano materials.
Which role plays technology in your design process?
For me innovation is about and imagination and transformation. Technological materials or techniques can elevate the functionality of a garment. I like to play with this idea of functionality and the question of what fashion can “do”, pushing it into abstraction.
And what is your position on the topic of sustainability?
Sustainability for me is bigger than just using some ecological fabric or natural materials. On the one hand I want to make clothes that create some kind of memory, that people want to keep because they mean something and last more than one season. On the other hand I want to be conscious about how my work relates with the fashion system at large, balancing financial stability with creative freedom.
Do you believe these subjects of technology and sustainability will be the future of fashion?
Fashion is in a sort of crisis and process of redefining itself. Technology and sustainability can be catalysts for change, but think it is more important to reflect and discuss the role of fashion and the human values that it brings forth. Only then can we address the fundamental social and ecological issues we are facing today and make something that is more than merely just “clothes".