During a long day in the Henrik Vibskov showroom in Copenhagen, I met Hien for the first time. I was an intern in the sales department and with Hien, who was still working for Agency V at that time, I had the perfect partner for long chats about the most senseless things in our everyday lives.
A lot had changed when I visited him in his studio in Berlin one year later. With 35 degrees outside, we drank ginger soda with ice and talked about everything that had happened in the meantime.
Lina: What is your background?
Hien: I quit school after the 10th grade and finished a three-year apprenticeship as a tailor in Berlin. After that I caught up on my vocational diploma. During this time, a new kind of apprenticeship started in Berlin called assistant for fashion and design. Since I was allowed to finish after only two years, I also did that. I decided to go to France for a year to learn the language and also for two internships. When I came back to Berlin in early 2008, I instantly started my internship in the press department of Agency V. I wanted to learn about every aspect of fashion, that is why my internships were different. Then Agency V offered me a job and I took it. That was very good and I am absolutely thankful for my time at the agency, which taught me the sales aspect of fashion. Slowly I felt like I wanted to be on my own with my own fashion. I always felt that what I did in the agency for others labels, I could also do that for my own fashion. So after two years at Agency V, I am now the designer of my own label.
Lina: So your job at Agency V was helpful?
Hien: Extremely helpful. It encouraged me to take that step. During my studies, I never planned to found a label one day.
Lina: What was your motivation for your studies, if not founding a label?
Hien: I have always wanted to work in fashion, especially in design since 7th grade. Back then I watched a documentation about Karl Lagerfeld and all those top models like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and so on. Ever since I always kept track of what’s going on in fashion and I also wanted to become a designer myself, so I have worked my way up until now. Sometimes I thought about making my own fashion but I never thought it would all happen so soon and quickly.
Lina: How does it feel to be your own boss now?
Hien: I feel very good. With my own label I have the opportunity to combine all my experiences. Patterns, sewing, press and sales, I can do everything myself, so I won’t need to hire someone now.
Lina: Did you already work during your studies?
Hien: Yes! I worked at H&M in Berlin for about seven years, including a one-year break. But it wasn’t really fun anymore so when American Apparel came to Berlin, I started working there. Sometimes I even helped in merchandising, created the window decoration or went to other cities to decide on the interior. After two years at American Apparel, a friend recommended me to Filippa K., where I started working then.
Lina: What inspired you for your SS11 collection and how would you describe your style?
Hien: My style is very simple, clean and reduced to the essentials. I abandon all knick-knack and extras, ever since way back during my studies. For this collection, Barnett Newman, an artist who always worked very graphically, inspired me. Most of the colours he used reappear in my collection. Actually my colour scheme was fixed before, so it was more of an accident but it works together so well.
Lina: Did you first select the fabrics or do you fix your colour scheme?
Hien: Usually I select the fabrics first and then I figure out what to do with it. Then I select the fabric that I am actually going to use and start developing the collection.
Lina: Do you sketch your collection?
Hien: I am not really a talent in sketching. I rather work with technical drawings. Well I have a picture in my head, quickly put it on paper and then make a proper technical drawing out of it with all measurements and additions.
Lina: How will you continue? Did you make plans or will you just let everything happen?
Hien: Both. I definitely have to let everything happen for now. This Summer, I went to Berlin Fashion Week with my collection to see how people like it. I was surprised about all the great feedback. So now in Fall I’ll be at the Tranoi fair in Paris. Up until then I’ll have to work on acquiring customers. I don’t really count on people ordering my first collection, but it helps to socialize with buyers that might order my collection in future seasons. After the Tranoi fair I’ll start to work on my next collection that has to be finished in January. What’s important now is fairs, acquiring customers and working on the next collection.