“People will stare. Make it worth their while. ” – Harry Winston
Shakespeare wrote that “faint heart never fair lady” and Trang Phung embodies the concept of boldness both in her designs and her personal life. At the age of seventeen, Trang along with her mother escaped the Vietnam War on a small fishing boat as part of the now infamous “Boat People Exodus.” That experience instilled a determination for life that has never left Trang.
In 2010, she left her job as a VP of a Fortune 500 Company to follow her dream of being a designer in the fashion world. Trang has dressed some of Hollywood’s biggest stars in her collection, Sen Couture, including Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez and Dolly Parton. Besides being a successful fashion designer, Trang is a role model for what it means to be a ‘self-made’ trans woman in today’s world. The archetype of the lotus is the inspiration behind Sen Couture, and Trang hopes that every woman feels instantly empowered when they wear one of her creations.
Trang Phung, Fashion That Enlightens
Justin Howard for Black Chalk : How did you get into fashion design? What inspired you to get into fashion design?
Trang Phung for Sen Couture : I’ve often been told that I have eyes for fashion and interior design. I have been a go-to person for advice in these areas among my friends and family, I’m very passionate about it. I have always trusted my fashion sense but never thought I could design since I had no formal training besides the ability to draw quite well. When I opened Sen Boutique in 2010, I set out to provide the solution for ladies like myself, who want to own well-made garments that are edgy, sexy, classy, yet affordable.
To carry out my vision, I hired a designer to work on my Sen Couture line and quickly learned the process in no time. My passion allowed me to get to my goal quicker than I expected. Within a year in business, I established the full line and organically have had many celebrities’ endorsements.
BC : Did you want to become a fashion designer when you were young?
TP : My mother was a seamstress when I was very little, and remember being her little assistant with small tasks such as sorting buttons, threading needles, bringing her chalks, scissor, or water. I’ve always admired how seamstresses like my mother would transform a piece of fabric into beautiful dresses. Also, I’ve always loved drawing, especially drawing princesses with fancy gowns. It was my fantasy to go to the ball as a princess with a gown like Cinderella. These childhood experiences gave me the desire to make dresses someday.
BC : What’s your philosophy about the ART of fashion?
TP : I inspire with the quote from the art master Leonardo Da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It describes my philosophy in fashion and many other areas in life. I believe that the most sophisticated form of fashion is simplicity, which effortlessly brings out the divine essence of the person who wears the garment and enhances her/his beauty through the classiness and elegance of the garment.
BC : What do you enjoy most about designing clothes?
TP : I enjoy the whole designing process from beginning to end – from initial sketches to having a finished product on the showroom floor. Designing can be extremely complex with certain looks I want to achieve; at times it seems impossible to figure out how to make these complexities a reality. Carrying out a solution to such complexities is the most rewarding part of the process.
BC : So if you had the choice of all designers in the world to collaborate with, who would that person be your choice?
TP : If I had a choice to collaborate with a known designer, I’d choose Tom Ford.
BC : Who is your most influential fashion designer?
TP : As I mentioned earlier, I would love to collaborate with Tom Ford as he is the most inspirational, influential designer for me. Especially in Gucci era – I remember wishing to own every piece of Gucci that Tom Ford designed if I could afford them.
BC : Does your work reflect your personal fashion taste? Can you describe your style?
TP : Yes, my taste is absolutely reflected in my designs. I love the look of clean, elegant and classic with an edge and I try to achieve all that in all of my creation
BC : Any advice you want to share?
TP : Every designer has a unique taste. It’s important to stick with the core of what you love; don’t let the noise of others distract your vision. However, always reinvent and stay innovative so that you stay ahead of the curve.
BC : What was your inspiration for this season’s collection?
TP : My inspiration for this season’s collection was all about pop colors such as yellow, green, fuschia, coral, nude alongside the core colors black, white, red, royal. Lots of open back, high slits, incorporated with gold or gunmetal color hardware.
BC : What do you think are the latest fashion trends?
TP : I have noticed that people are striking for comfort, more casual these days. I’ve seen more ripped denim jeans, cropped tops or loose tops, sneakers on the street, and more colorful prints since spring and summer are here.
BC : In your opinion what’s the response of buyers to the fashion weeks, in general, these days?
TP : Base on my research, buyers have not bought like they used to during Fashion Week these days. These dues to downward in the retail sector since last year, but that only temporary as the business cycles will change like it always has.
BC : Future Plans?
TP : Yes, I am proud to announce SEN Couture is launching a men’s line, SEN Uomo, in summer 2017.