Chloe Dao

March 20, 2007

6. Chloe Dao: This past spring, Vietnamese designer Chloe Dao became the first Asian woman and the least dramatic contestant to win Bravo’s Project Runway (fans can attest to the catty attitudes of season one winner Jay McCarroll and season three winner Jeffrey Sebelia). Dao played it nice off and on the runway during the show, often creating minimalist and classically tailored clothing. Since winning Project Runway’s $100,000 prize, Dao has been expanding her contemporary women’s line Lot 8, which she established in 2000.

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You know Chloe Dao from her designs on Project Runway — now see a side of her you didn’t know and be inspired!  

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Are you a fan of Project Runway? Chloe Dao, the winner from season two, sat down with our own visual stylist, Audrey Mansfield, for a candid conversation about her career, her experience on the show, and how she’s following her dreams. For more information on the Lot 8 boutique: www.lot8online.com

For more information on Chloe Dao’s work on Project Runway: www.bravotv.com/Project_Runway_2/

About Chloe Dao: At the age of 10, Chloe Dao got her first taste of fashion from watching Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN. Fashion, of course, was not in the future plans for this Vietnamese immigrant family. Chloe’s hard working parents, Thu Thien Dao and Hue Thuc Luong brought their eight daughters to the United States from Pakse, Laos in 1979 seeking a better life for the family. Like typical parents, they wanted Chloe — the sixth child — and the other daughters to pursue careers in law or medicine. Instead, Chloe and her two younger sisters devoted every Sunday morning to watching the latest runway shows from around the world. Each episode inspired and evoked her passion for design. Chloe’s creative mind and fingers found its way into her father’s garage where she made jewelry out of screws and washers. As her passion grew, she started to redesign her own clothes and special finds from vintages shops. Sewing came naturally as Mrs. Luong was a seasoned tailor. By her senior year of high school, she sewed her first garment from scratch, a royal blue satin strapless gown with beads and lace trim for prom. Driven by discipline, determination and talent, Chloe, opened Lot 8 in the summer of 2000; this time with much help and support from her family. The boutique, appropriately named after the eight daughters, showcases Chloe’s diverse collection of cocktail dresses, evening gowns, and occasional sportswear pieces. Today, Lot 8 is one of Houston’s premiere boutiques and is regularly featured in Lucky magazine and local media.

CHLOE DAO and her year

March 20, 2007

CHLOE DAO

This is Chloe Dao’s lucky year. Being born a Boar, Chloe’s destined to succeed beyond her goals in the year marked for great wealth and social status. But it didn’t start out that way.

Chloe didn’t have connections when she landed in New York City, but she did rack up six years of hands-on experience on NYC’s Seventh Avenue. In 2000, Chloe, who is Vietnamese American, returned home to Houston, Texas, and pooled enough cash to start Lot8 boutique. Then, she won the hearts of viewers and castmates by landing the prize for Season 2 of Project Runway.

I bumped into former Parsons School of Design chair Tim Gunn on the red carpet last year, and the dapper Project Runway den father was still reeling over Chloe Dao’s win. “She’s an incredibly talented young woman,” Tim said, gushing over the “leaf gown” that Chloe finished literally seconds before judging, “and she really astounded everyone on set with her great patience, but even greater determination. In this business, it takes hard work to succeed, not just a big personality.”

“I’ve always loved fashion,” Chloe said, decked out in a black cocktail dress of her own design at the 2006 Vietnamese American National Gala. “It’s really about just showing who you are, and doing it well.” Chloe recently added men’s designer Adam Vuong, and his line, Adam’s Apple, to her boutique collection.

www.lot8online.com

Forbes.com

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Style Spotlight

Hitha Prabhakar, 03.05.07, 12:01 AM ETDesigner Chloe Dao, winner of Bravo’s season two Project Runway challenge, can attest to the power of television.

Dao recently announced a deal with television shopping network QVC to sell her newest collection of clothes from her line called Simply Chloe Dao. The pieces, available this May, will include affordable casual dresses, tops, blazers and pants for women.

Her decision to debut on television versus working with a traditional retailer like Bloomingdales, Macy’s or Saks Fifth Avenue, makes her the first Project Runway winner to go with to this strategy. Marc Beckman, chief executive of Designers Management Agency brokered the deal.

“The concept of fashion on television and interactive television especially for Chloe’s new line makes all the sense in the world,” says Beckman. “A content-driven, interactive TV is a model retailers are moving toward, and it was a pivotal career decision for her to sell on QVC first. She will have instant reach to people that may not access to her clothes if she debuted in a traditional retailer.”

And the reach is enormous. QVC airs in 90 million households over a 24-hour period, according to QVC. During Dao’s primetime segment, scheduled sometime between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., she is expected to reach about 1.5 million people.
Strategic Placement
The push to sell on television first was as much of a strategic deal as it was practical.

Dao, who had a store in Houston prior to becoming a contestant on Project Runway, says courting freestanding retailers can be risky. That’s because designers with these deals must worry about production and shipping costs, as well as maintaining enough cash to cover costs if the merchandise doesn’t sell.

“The $100,000 [you win] only takes you so far,” she says. “Between paying the production people to create the collection and getting them in a retailer, then having to pay them if the merchandise doesn’t sell, you end up blowing through that cash in an instant.”

With the QVC deal, Dao is able to design her clothes without having to worry about fronting the costs. That’s because fabrics, patterns, sample preparation and labor are being covered by an outside production company, who then sell the units to QVC. For Dao, giving up control of production as well as the potential money she could make per unit (Dao is making a percentage of the sale of total pieces sold) is worth it since she doesn’t assume up-front risk.

“If units don’t sell at a retailer like Bergdorf Goodman, it’s my business,” she says. “If they don’t sell on QVC, it’s my ego. For me it’s all about avoiding the risk.”

Advice from Chloe Dao

March 20, 2007

Now, their career options are exploding. Chloe Dao, the Houston designer who won the “Project Runway Season II” reality television show last March, has signed five brand-extension deals, including one to design iPod cases to be sold by Target Corp. and Circuit City Stores Inc. Los Angeles designer Monique Lhullier, known for her lace wedding gowns, will create a bridal suite at a new resort owned by Sir Richard Branson in Somerset County, N.J.

Tomorrow, New York designer Alice Roi, who makes punk rock-inspired knit dresses, will host a party paid for by Dow Chemical Co. to introduce denim made with a next-generation stretch fiber. The tablecloths at the party will be made of the “XLA” denim.

These varied deals were all brokered by New York’s Designers Management Agency, or DMA, which has positioned itself as the Creative Artists Agency of the luxury fashion industry.

The emergence of DMA comes at a time when fashion designers, both new and established, are eager to find ways to raise the profiles of their own brands and generate additional revenue amid stagnant apparel sales. “The only way to be in the market is to become a celebrity yourself,” Ms. Dao says.”

Are other creative occupations due for representation? High end sales people and business managers? How about video game designers and biotech researchers? Quite a contrast to the negotiating entity (the union) of the industrial age.

Chloe Dao in Viet

March 20, 2007

Chloe Dao, người phụ nữ đầy quyết tâm, đã mở rộng niềm say mê thời trang với bộ sưu tập mới ‘Giản dị Chloe Dao’ sắp được giới thiệu trên QVC, một mạng lưới bán hàng qua truyền hình tại Mỹ.

Cách đây đúng 1 năm, Chloe Dao, nhà thiết kế thời trang gốc Việt nổi tiếng ở Mỹ, đã xuất sắc đoạt giải cuộc thi Project Runway. Năm nay, để tăng cường quảng bá thương hiệu và mở rộng nguồn khách hàng tại Mỹ, chị đang chuẩn bị một giải pháp kinh doanh mới: bán trang phục thời trang qua truyền hình.

Cơ hội phát triển kinh doanh

Gần đây, Chloe Dao đã ký một hợp đồng với QVC, để bán những sản phẩm trong bộ sưu tập thời trang thể thao mới nhất của mình tên là  Simply Chloe Dao (tạm dịch: Giản dị Chloe Dao). Những sản phẩm này, sẽ ra mắt công chúng vào tháng 5 năm nay, bao gồm những trang phục phụ nữ như áo đầm, áo váy, áo ngắn tay, áo lửng, quần lót… Giá bán các trang phục này từ 30 – 75 USD/chiếc.

Với quyết định kinh doanh thời trang qua truyền hình thay vì qua các nhà bán lẻ truyền thống – như Bloomingdales, Macy’s hay Saks Fifth Avenue, Dao đã trở thành người đầu tiên trong số những người đoạt giải Project Runway mở ra chiến lược kinh doanh mới này.

Ông Marc Beckman, Chủ tịch Designers Management Agency, người môi giới cho sự hợp tác giữa Chloe Dao và QVC, phát biểu: “Ý tưởng bán hàng trên truyền hình, đặc biệt cho bộ sưu tập mới nhất của Chloe Dao, có thể mang lại hiệu quả lớn trong kinh doanh. Một chương trình truyền hình tương tác, có nội dung được dàn dựng bài bản, đang là một mô hình kinh doanh mà nhiều nhà bán lẻ đang nhắm đến”.

Theo ông Beckman, bán hàng trên QVC là một giải pháp quan trọng đối với Dao, vì qua QVC, Dao sẽ có cơ hội tiếp cận với những người yêu thích sản phẩm của chị nhưng không thể đến các cửa hiệu bán lẻ để nghe chị giới thiệu những mẫu thiết kế mới nhất của mình.

Liên kết với QVC, Dao cũng sẽ có điều kiện thuận lợi để tăng cường quảng bá thương hiệu. Theo QVC, các chương trình truyền hình của họ có thể được xem bởi 90 triệu hộ gia đình trong 24 tiếng đồng hồ. Đó là những con số quá hấp dẫn, hứa hẹn mang lại những thương vụ ngon lành cho Chloe Dao. Hơn nữa, do chương trình của Dao được phát trực tiếp trong giờ cao điểm – từ 18 giờ đến 23 giờ, nên QVC ước tính sẽ có ít nhất 1,5 triệu người theo dõi chương trình của Dao.

Theo báo Women’s Wear Daily, ngoài những thiết kế mới đầy sáng tạo, bộ sưu tập này còn có những “phiên bản” của những mẫu thiết kế đầy quyến rũ mà nhờ đó Chloe đã đoạt giải trong vòng chung kết cuộc thi Project Runway tại New York trong năm ngoái.

Một bài viết trên website của tạp chí thời trang Fashiontribes đã giới thiệu về Dao như sau: “Chloe Dao, người phụ nữ đầy quyết tâm, đã mở rộng niềm say mê thời trang với bộ sưu tập mới “Giản dị Chloe Dao” sắp được giới thiệu trên QVC”.

Hạn chể rủi ro tài chính

Giới kinh doanh thời trang tại Mỹ nhận định rằng việc Dao lần đầu tiên thực hiện bán y phục qua truyền hình là một hướng đi chiến lược của chị trong kinh doanh thời trang.

Giải thích về kế hoạch mới của mình, Dao cho biết làm ăn với các nhà bán lẻ có thể chứa đựng nhiều rủi ro, bởi vì khi đó các nhà thiết kế phải trả toàn bộ chi phí sản xuất và vận chuyển. Nhưng với hợp đồng với QVC, Dao có thể khả năng thiết kế y phục mà không phải đối mặt với rủi ro tài chính. Đó là bởi vì mọi chi phí về vải vóc, mẫu mã, may và lao động đều do một công ty sản xuất trang trải, sau đó công ty này sẽ bán sản phẩm lại cho QVC.

Đối với Dao, dù không thể trực tiếp kiểm soát sản xuất và không thu được lợi nhuận cao qua từng sản phẩm, nhưng việc hưởng tỉ lệ phần trăm trên tổng doanh thu bán hàng qua QVC vẫn là giải pháp tốt nhất vì chị không phải trả trước chi phí. Dao nói: “Đối với tôi, tất cả nhằm để giảm thiểu mọi rủi ro”.

Dao phát biểu: “Tôi cảm thấy gắn bó với phương thức kinh doanh của QVC vì cách làm ăn như thế rất phù hợp với tôi. Trên tinh thần đó, tôi nghĩ rằng QVC là một phương tiện hoàn hảo có thể giúp tôi phát triển thương hiệu và tạo điều kiện cho sản phẩm của tôi ngày càng được nhiều người biết đến”.

Annette Repasch, Phó Chủ tịch phụ trách thương mại của QVC, phát biểu: “Tài năng và kinh nghiệm của Chloe trong lĩnh vực thiết kế thời trang sẽ mở ra cho chúng tôi một triển vọng làm ăn mới mẻ và đầy sức sống. Chúng tôi tin tưởng rằng phong cách hòa nhã và lối nói chuyện đầy gợi cảm của Chloe sẽ để lại một ấn tượng sâu sắc trong lòng khán giả”.

Đôi nét về Chloe Dao

Dù cha mẹ đều là người Việt, nhưng Dao được sinh ra tại Pakse, Lào. Năm 1979, khi vừa tròn 8 tuổi, Dao cùng gia đình sang Mỹ và định cư tại Houston, bang Texas.

Nơi xứ người, cha mẹ Dao luôn khuyên Dao, cũng như những chị em khác trong nhà,  nên chăm chỉ học hành để sau này tìm được một việc làm phù hợp và ổn định. Tuy nhiên, ngay từ khi còn nhỏ, Dao đã yêu thích thời trang và ước mơ trở thành nhà thiết kế y phục phụ nữ. Khi mới 10 tuổi, Dao đã có mẫu thiết kế thời trang đầu tiên của mình: “Style with Elsa Klensch”, và “tác phẩm” này đã được giới thiệu trên đài truyền hình CNN của Mỹ.

Lớn lên, Dao theo học ngành tiếp thị kinh doanh tại trường đại học Houston. Nhưng sau khi học một năm, Dao nhận thấy cần có sự thay đổi để thực hiện ước mơ của mình từ thời thơ ấu. Được sự đồng tình và khuyến khích của mẹ, Dao quyết định chuyển sang học thiết kế thời trang tại trường cao đẳng Houston. Năm 1992, Dao tiếp tục học chuyên sâu về tạo mẫu y phục tại Viện Công nghệ Thời trang ở thành phố New York.

Với nỗ lực học tập, tinh thần sáng tạo và ý chí phấn đấu không ngừng trong nghề nghiệp, Chloe Dao đã liên tục gặt hái những thành công, đạt được nhiều giải thưởng lớn, và trở thành một trong những nhà thiết kế thời trang phụ nữ nổi tiếng nhất tại Hoa Kỳ hiện nay.

Theo QUANG THỊNH, Người Viễn Xứ

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Bravotv.com: First of all, how are you?
I’m great, working hard.

Bravotv.com: Things have changed for you since Project Runway. What’s the biggest change for the better?
Honestly, I keep saying it because it’s true — it’s the opportunity that it’s given me. The opportunity to do some charity work, the opportunity to make some changes. For other people too, besides me. The biggest thing is that I have meetings with bigger people, bigger job opportunities. My name actually means something to people. That’s the biggest thing. What? Chloe Dao means something?

Bravotv.com: What’s changed for the worse?
It’s just a lot of work, I think, more than anything. The workload and the expectations that people have of you. To have a thousand stores. To have your clothes everywhere. It’s only been seven months!

Bravotv.com: We hear that a lot, actually. It’s common for a lot of Project Runway alums, that there’s expectation that they’ll have a line everywhere.
Definitely. We were all small designers when we got on the show. And even for season 2, we didn’t think that we’d be that popular. And so now, to be getting thousands of emails. I think that’s the biggest thing — is that people think we’re these millionaires. That we’re rich, and work is easy. Especially being the winner. I still live at home, people. I work in my living room.

Bravotv.com: Did you watch Season 3?
Definitely. I’m a big fan of the show, period. Even if I’m not in it, I’m watching it.

Bravotv.com: Do you have a favorite?
Definitely Michael Knight. I mean, it’s like what I said on the reunion show at the end. I feel like he’s the most diverse, he’s the most creative, based on the challenges. And he’s a great, nice guy. He’s humble. And he’s arrogant when he has to be. I think if you’re a designer, you have to be a little arrogant, you have to believe in yourself. But to me, he shows the most diversity. And the most wearability. And for me, that’s the personal style that I favor.

Bravotv.com: Were there any challenges from Season 3 that you would have like to participate in?
I wouldn’t mind doing the apartment challenge. I like things that are not so predictable and that’s definitely unpredictable. Umm, the rest, the trash, I’d done that before. The one I’m so glad I didn’t have to do is the Black and White Challenge. Using all the fabric! No way! That would be so difficult. I looked at that and thought: Holy crap — thank God I wasn’t on Season 3.

Bravotv.com: You were here in New York for all of fashion week, who did you see?
I went to Milly. I went to Alexander Terekhov, Max Azria. I went to seven or eight shows. I was there for ten days. It was great, I felt like a fashionista.

Bravotv.com: Who did you like the best?
I have to say Milly. The clothes were adorable. I like clothes that girls would see on the rack and say, “Oh, it’s so cute. Can I wear it now?” That’s what I go for.

Bravotv.com: OK, if you were stranded on a desert island, which contestant, from any season, would you want with you?
Oh wow. Definitely Kara Janx. Because she’s hilarious. I think she would, in the midst of the horror and the drama of trying to survive being trapped on the island — she would crack me up. And put things in perspective. We’d laugh. We’d die at the same time. But at least we’d be laughing!

Bravotv.com: Are you still in touch with Kara?
Oh yes, she and I are good friends. I’m still in touch with all of the people from Project Runway, except for two people.

Bravotv.com: You don’t have to say who if you don’t want to.
Oh, I don’t care. Santino and Zulema.

Bravotv.com: OK. So, you famously decided to stay in Texas after you won. What went in to that decision?
You know, I’m from Texas. I’d lived in New York, and to me, if I hadn’t lived there for eight years, and not experienced fashion there, the life and the energy of New York, then I honestly think I would have moved there. But I think being older — my family is here, my store is here, my boyfriend is here.

You know, I understand the instinct well, but I have enough experience to do it well and do it in Texas. I think without my experience — I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to do it. And I’m still struggling. I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to do production. How to ship everything. And, you know, do everything down here. But I think it’ll be nice to give Houston a boost. I’m in the spotlight right now, I can say, “Hey, we’re as cool as Dallas.”

We’re always competing against Dallas. Even New York. But fashion is so global right now. So what if I’m in Houston? Todd Oldham came from Dallas, I think, and he’s a great designer. There are a lot of people who are well-known designers who didn’t come or weren’t born in New York City.

Bravotv.com: Have you expanded your operation?
My store doubled in size. Before, I had my little design studio, which was the garage. I’m now in the living room. I’ve really moved up. That’s how fabulous it’s been.

Bravotv.com: Have you hired more people?
I have a cutter. I have someone to help me sew and I have a design assistant. So that’s three people I’ve hired just for myself. And the store, we’ve hired more sales people, we have a store manager. There’s an additional six people that we’ve hired. Just in the last six months.

Bravotv.com: Your store in Houston has to have become a tourist destination.
It sure is. I never thought about it. It’s bizarre, But it’s actually really cool. My sister just called me and today a family from New York came down, because one of the relatives is moving down here, and all they wanted to buy was Lot 8 Chloe Dao. Which is awesome. They spent like, two grand. So we love them.

Bravotv.com: What are excited about designing next?
I’m excited about designing something that nobody’s ever seen from me. And that’s a lot to do. Sometimes you’re so swamped, you just want to whip up the same thing. So when I make something that’s completely new, that I haven’t done — that, to me, is exciting.

Bravotv.com: Do you ever sit down and create anything just for fun, just for you?
I don’t have time. Isn’t that pathetic? Designers are the worst dressers, because all we do is create for other people. It’s like hair stylists with bad hair.

Bravotv.com: Is there anything that’s become more inspiring lately?
I think I’ve always designed just in figures. It’s all about the seam, and the combination of the seam. One piece that I’m really excited about is this halter top I made. It’s very different in that the front is silk chemise, and the back is silk chiffon. So it’s very asymmetrical in every way. It’s actually done. I’m always enjoying designing, especially when it turns out right. I hate it when it doesn’t.

Bravotv.com: What do you see as the biggest fashion mistake in Houston?
There is none! I’m kidding, of course there is. Honestly, I think fashion right now is so damn confused. Even with the big name designers I think they’re unregarded or too crazy or otherwise too boring. Right now in fashion there’s no right or wrong in anything. So I have to say there’s no wrong, as long as you wear it in confidence.

Bravotv.com: If you could choose another career besides design, what would it be?
I would definitely be a dancer. A hip-hop dancer or a ballroom dancer. Really, it’s my next true love. I take dance classes all the time. You should take them. You have to make the time, I literally have to make the time. I work seven days a week. Sometimes I worry that I work so much, but you have to make the time.

Bravotv.com:What should the world know about Chloe Dao that they don’t already know?
Oh God, that I am really a gay guy at heart. I really am. If you just saw me on TV, you wouldn’t know it, but I can channel my inner gay guy.

Bravotv.com: Hey, how’s your Saturn Roadster holding up?
It’s in the garage. I’ve probably driven it four times since I’ve gotten it. It’s so sad, but it doesn’t carry enough fabric for me, so I have to load everything into my Corolla. The Roadster is two seats and if you’re taller than six feet, forget it.

Bravotv.com: We assumed it’d be a good car to make out in…
I haven’t made out in it with my boyfriend.

Bravotv.com: Isn’t that what a Roadster is for?
We should try that out.

Bravotv.com: What trends do you see for 2007?
Honestly, we’re still heading for more big volume, humongous fricking garments. We’re still going there. But it’s still also balancing off. It’s going to be seriously big enormous tops, really long, and skinny bottoms. We’re going to do that for another, in my opinion, two years.

Bravotv.com: How about for you, personally? What’s next for Chloe Dao?
I’m actually going to buy a house. My first real house ever, so that I don’t have to live and work with my mommy and ruin her house any more. I already picked it out. My boyfriend is going to go and look at it this weekend, because he has to see it too. We’re actually moving in together.

Bravotv.com: That’s big news.
It’s a really big step. No other family members. Yeah, it is a big step. Moving in with my boyfriend. I’m buying a house. Have the business downstairs. Live upstairs. Do the whole New York, upstairs/downstairs thing. But in Houston.

Bravotv.com: Well, we wish you luck with all of it. You’re a joy to talk to, Chloe.
I’m glad. Call me any time.