It had been an interesting turn of event when I received a few invitations to Mercedes Benz fashion week as a blogger, literally an hour before we left for Tokyo. My first event was the Asian fashion meets Tokyo segment, highlighting a Vietnamese designer, Nguyen Cong Tri. I was most excited about this as I was given the opportunity to observe fashion culture and inspiration from around the world.
I was intrigued by how a well known couture designer could get inspiration from the simple lifestyle of a vietnamese female rice farmer. Couture is very artistic and exclusive, reserved for the bourgeoisie (high society), and it would be interesting to see the juxtaposition between two opposing social classes.
His ability to create the collection was extraordinary as he incorporated a variety of textures and techniques such as weaving, fringing, intricate embroidery and appliqué. He uses them in a way to pay homage to his traditional values as is evident in the pieces.
I could observe that a lot of his collection drew inspiration from the traditional rice farmer attire, called the Ao Ba Ba, but modernised with use of design elements such as velvet and leather, crop pants, fringing and coats. The fringe numbers in particular drew my attention because of its dramatic presentation.
His stunning clothes were also crafted using a unique silk called Lanh My A, which is considered a rare material and national treasure of Vietnam. The rarity comes from the difficulty of harvesting the Mac Nua fruit used to dye the silk, and the labour-intensive dyeing technique, which can take months to complete.
Artists in any field tend to be cultured individuals, and he is certainly considered one of them in my eyes, as he inspired me to be curious about the lifestyle of a rice farmer. Through my reading, I found out more about the role of women in rice farms, which has been growing due to urbanisation. As men move to the city to improve their financial situation, women are left to manage and make decisions on the farm. So it may not be such a surprise that Nguyen Cong Tri drew from this inspiration as women have made a significant contribution to one of the most important industries in Vietnam and Asia.