Minh Hanh: Ao dai Ambassador

July 14, 2006

 
17:40′ 13/07/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: AM 835031 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
Fashion designer Minh Hanh (photo: Dan tri).

Returning from Rome’s Viet Nam Week with her celebrated Dragon and Butterfly fashion collection, Minh Hanh immediately became a media interest as she was granted the title Knight of Arts and Letters by the French government.

From a 12-year-old girl dreaming of owning a new ao dai to the unspoken “ao dai ambassador” of Vietnam, Minh Hanh finds time to sit with Culture Vulture and talk about her lifelong passion.

• At the age of 12, you were deeply impressed by the image of a Vietnamese girl in a remodelled ao dai, leisurely riding a bicycle with her hair falling lightly to her shoulder. From that moment on, when did you decide to dedicate your life to the dress?

My first 10 remodelled ao dai came 15 years later, under the order of the Youth Studio. The idea of re-making ao dai came when I attended wedding ceremonies and realised that many women wore traditional ao dai of all the same style, which looks boring.

• Your collections have gained a reputation abroad. Do you have any secrets to creating such unique collections?

To have all collections bear the stamp of the individual, a designer must have the ability to expose his or her origin through creativeness and belief.

Before every fashion show abroad, I spend time learning about the history and culture of the place I visit to discover similarities and differences, so that I can work better.

• In ao dai shows in Japan, some viewers burst into tears. “So gentle, so beautiful..,” they said. Recently, you introduced your new collection dubbed Dragon and Butterfly in Italy during Viet Nam Week in Rome. How was the reaction there?

Much of Japan’s youth has dedicated itself to the alternative movement, with wild hair and clothes. When a pure while ao dai – a contrary image – was put in front of their eyes, they suddenly felt moved.

In Rome, the audience also liked ao dai. They admired its gentle, light and flowing beauty; they saw it as a good combination of East and West.

Why do the foreigners like ao dai? Do you think it’s because Vietnamese ao dai helps accentuate female beauty?

Many women in other countries dare to show off their beauty in more obvious ways. They dress in mini-skirts because they like their legs or low-cut gowns to expose their chests. But they are still fond of ao dai, because it helps them to boast their beauty more discreetly, as if they did it unintentionally. In ao dai, they find themselves playing the part of the exotic Asian.

• There are many young designers following you, but sometimes their “enovated” ao dai is not very creative. ln your opinion, how do you remodel an ao dai to catch up to international fashion trends, but also keep its traditional charm?

A renovation always requires knowledge. To renovate the ao dai, one should thoroughly understand its sacred role in Vietnamese culture.

A designer should understand that he or she is going to preserve the values of the dress but also develop it into a more modern and beautiful one. If you renovate something, but it is not welcomed by the public, specifically the younger generation, then protecting the traditional values becomes a difficult work. It is also the matter of how to preserve cultural identity in the field of fashion.

• For long, you have been known as “ao dai ambassador”. You received one more title, Knight of Arts and Letters, last week. How did you feel when you were informed of the title?

At the time I was busy preparing for Hue Festival 2006. Truly speaking, I was very surprised at the news.

• What are your future plans? Anything in the works?

I will just continue with my usual work, waiting for Viet Nam Collection Grand Prix 2006, which will be held in Hanoi, and preparing for Viet Nam Fashion Week – Autumn-Winter 2006.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

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