Exclusive Interview with Duy Nguyen from DUY Collection

Exclusive Interview with Duy Nguyen from DUY Collection

In a city like Montréal, where only the extraordinarily talented and hard-working fashion designers survive, Duy Nguyen has more than made his mark among the upper echelons of the city’s fashion pack. Recognized across Canada as one of the country’s most innovative and skilled contemporary designers, the beauty and creativity of his work speaks for itself: he was just chosen as Québec’s semi-finalist for the Mercedes-Benz Start Up award. The national winner will be selected in October of this year, and my fingers are crossed for Duy!

Ahead of his line’s Spring/Summer 2013 presentation at Montréal Fashion Week – September 4-7, 2012 – I asked Duy a few questions about his upcoming DUY Collection show, how he got into the world of fashion design, and how he deals with the challenges of working in such a fiercely competitive and creative industry.

DUY Collection, last year’s Spring/Summer 2012 presentation. Montréal Fashion Week. Photo credit: Jimmy Hamelin.

A graduate of Montréal’s Lasalle College, Duy started his line just over ten years ago and has become known for his sharp detailing, technical construction and aesthetic that pushes the boundaries between masculine and feminine attributes, forging an incredible mix of masculine tailoring without losing its air of strong femininity. Even though Montréalers are known for appreciating good style, Duy says it can still be difficult for high-fashion designers to be noticed in Montréal’s small, but competitive, marketplace.

“Unless you want to do cheap commercial clothes, the market for high fashion in Canada is almost non-existent, especially in Montréal. The only way to survive is to get a collaboration with a big retailer to pay for your bills, or do your fashion line as a hobby.

“There’s a lot of very talented designers in Montréal and to keep up and stand out you constantly need to surpass yourself,” says Duy.

Although it’s a challenge, Duy has managed to do just that – surpassing himself season after season with collections that have been met with critical and popular praise. For the last few seasons Quebec’s premier fashion magazine, Elle Québec, has sponsored his Montréal Fashion Week shows. Duy has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business, most notably he’s partnered with Aldo Shoes.

His most recent Fall/Winter 2012 collection, presented last February, was an absolute show-stopper. The inspiration for the show was “Grace Kelly meets James Dean” – now that’s some exciting visual imagery – and the result was pure fashion fantasy. Using his signature mix of luxurious fabrics, the pieces were created using a combination of wool, wool silk, silk, leather mohair and shearling.

DUY Collection, Fall/Winter 2012. Montréal Fashion Week. Photo credit: Jimmy Hamelin.


DUY Collection, Fall/Winter 2012. Montréal Fashion Week. Photo credit: Jimmy Hamelin.

Duy first realized he wanted to be fashion designer during the 1990s, 1994 to be exact, when the world’s most famous supermodels were at the top of their reign over the fashion world. Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell, all dominated the pages of magazines, and advertising billboards, the world over. Duy says it was the March issue of American Vogue, which sparked his interest in the world of fashion. The issue included an editorial by Karl Lagerfeld called “Original Thinkers”, which featured Chanel’s Spring/Summer 1994 collection.

Vogue USA – March, 1994.

After such inspiration from the king of Chanel, the first piece of clothing that Duy designed was for his sister, and very much inspired by the Chanel aesthetic. He created a “Chanel-esque” dress from an expensive boucle material, which he’d bought specifically for the design.

Although fashion has evolved exponentially since then, now almost 20 years later you can certainly see the influence that these strong, confident supermodels had on the budding designer. His collections are still geared towards women who make fearless fashion choices; women with a built-in sense of style who dress to stand out from the crowd. Today Duy says he admires fellow designers like Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquiere and Haider Ackermann for their “incredible sense of construction”.

With inspiration from these contemporary designers, Duy describes his upcoming SS ’13 collection as “young, fresh and golden”. When developing concepts for each of his new collections, Duy creates a film in his head with a main character and an ambiance. This season his ambiance is drawn from Riviera and his main character is Lana Del Rey in St-Tropez. His collection will be presented during Montreal Fashion Week, Wednesday September 5 at 7.30pm, and it will feature in the salle principale (main hall) of Arsenal Montreal – a contemporary art gallery in the Griffintown district. I’ll be sure to post photos of his new collection as soon as it’s revealed!

The photos I’ve featured with this post are from his previous collections, but they should give you a taste of what’s to come.

DUY Collection, last year’s Spring/Summer 2012 presentation. Montréal Fashion Week. Photo credit: Jimmy Hamelin.

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