Sunday , May 26 2024

Fashion designer turns ‘áo dài’ into silk artworks


Designer Đinh Quang Trung paints an artwork on an ‘áo dài’. Photo courtesy of the artist

Arriving in HCM City last May to attend Vietnam international Fashion Week, Karolína Kokešová, Miss Global International 2019, made a strong impression when she appeared in an áo dài (traditional Vietnamese long dress) that had been manually coloured and decorated with floral patterns.

Before coming to Việt Nam, Kokešová expressed her admiration for traditional Vietnamese dress, particularly those within the áo dài collection of fashion designer and silk painting artisan Đinh Quang Trung.

Miss Global International 2019, Karolína Kokešová, is seen in one of Trung’s áo dài designs.Photo courtesy of the artist

The áo dài that Miss Global International 2019 put on that day was tailored for her by Trung himself as a response to her affection.

Miss Vietnam Đoàn Hồng Trang at Miss Global 2022 recently held in Bali, Indonesia also chose Trung’s designs for her outfits at the beauty pageant.

Trang said she wished to contribute to promoting the image of the country, people and traditional culture of Việt Nam after the pandemic. By wearing the áo dài made from the smooth silk material and painted by the talented artist, she hoped to realise that wish by showcasing a rich Vietnamese soul and charming beauty.

Besides Trang, many other beauties of the Vietnamese entertainment industry have chosen Trung’s designs to showcase a gentle Vietnamese image.

Trung has pursued painting silk on áo dài for the past 20 years. This art is a unique and complex craft. Adopting a highly meticulous, delicate and elaborate technique, the painter manually dyes plain white silk fabric with various colours to turn it into a canvas.

“When I was young, I aspired to be an artist, a professional áo dài designer who would introduce Vietnamese beauty far and wide when I grew up,” the 39-year-old said.

Trung was introduced to the traditional craft of silk painting while he was studying fashion. Realising it was at risk of disappearance, he decided to study its technique to revive and save the craft from falling into oblivion.

He believes that though many elaborate items of the past can be easily replaced with cheap ones, the cultural essence of human hands and brains is irreplaceable.

“The more modern life becomes, the more people will appreciate artworks made by hands,” he said.

Many beauties of the Vietnamese entertainment industry have also chosen Trung’s designs, intending to showcase the purest and most gentle Vietnamese image. Photo courtesy of the artist

Already holding a passion for áo dài, Trung noticed the similarities between the material for painting on silk and the traditional Vietnamese dress, which are both soft and gentle, so decided to try adopting the craft of silk painting on áo dài.

“Through years of trial and error, I finally discovered the technique of spreading colours on silk and creating a painting on áo dài as a canvas,” he said.

In the collections recently introduced to the public, the designer has demonstrated his loyalty to the traditional shape of the dresses and decorated them with realistic patterns like flowers, nature or poetic landscapes.

He said that the shape had been distilled from the quintessential designs and research over the years to best suit the body of Vietnamese women. Therefore, he wanted to honour and preserve that beauty, together with the art of silk painting.

“I might create innovative designs that match more female body shapes in the future, but I will always prioritise tradition,” Trung said.

Quê Hương Tôi — Một Thoáng Phú Yên (My Hometown — A glimpse of Phú Yên) is Trung’s latest collection as well as a gift that he wished to present to his hometown.

The collection features over 10 áo dài designs decorated with Phú Yên’s famous landscapes that the artist himself painted. It was presented in the programme Áo Dài Qua Miền Di Sản Phú Yên (Áo Dài Through Phú Yên’s Heritage Land) in April.

To completely become committed to developing the traditional craft, Trung gave up a position as the creative director for a prestigious Italian fashion brand.

“It took me a lot of inner struggle to finally decide that if I won’t do it today, then when will I do it?” the designer said.

After nine years, Trung’s class has trained over 4,000 apprentices nationwide, many of whom have become silk painting artists. Photo

Aside from creating unique áo dài designs integrated with the art of silk painting, Trung has also opened a class to spread his passion to the community. After nine years, the class has trained over 4,000 apprentices nationwide, many of whom have become silk painting artists themselves.

“Seeing my apprentices complete their projects every day, I’m reminded that Việt Nam’s silk painting will certainly be resurrected someday,” he said. VNS

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