Leroy Nguyen is a young Australian designer who only finished TAFE in 2012 but his collection has already caught the eye of the likes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His second collection The Candy Shop , full of kaleidoscope swirls and sweet fare caught my eye too, so I decided to ask the talented designer some questions and let loose in his sugar factory against the bright blue Sydney horizon…
TG: How did you come to be a designer? Was there a lot of pressure to continue the family business coming from your parents? ( Leroy’s family owns a popular restaurant chain)
LN: I really fell into fashion design by chance. A good friend of mine was applying for the Fashion Design course at The Fashion Design Studio and asked for my help with her application. It piqued my interest. I put together a portfolio in two days, sent it in and the rest is history. My parents have never pressured us kids to continue the family business. They were more inclined to pressure us when it came to studies. It just so happens that Luke has an amazing knack for the restaurant trade and we couldn’t be prouder. My parents have mellowed with age and I think they realize that we each have our own minds. “As long as you work hard and try your best”, they like to say.
TG: What was the first time you knew you wanted to be a designer? Were you interested in fashion as a child?
LN:My time at FDS really cultivated and nurtured the way I think and work as a designer. It was somewhere towards the end of second year that I sat back and was really taken aback at the amount of skills and knowledge that I had gained in such a short time. And I thought, “this is what I want to be”. As a kid, my mother always instilled the importance of grooming and presentability so my appreciation for clothes and their quality started from a pretty young age. Having two older brothers, I also had some pretty awesome hand me downs.
TG: Who was your first female idol? Who is it now and why?
LN: Oh God. When I was about five or six I was obsessed with Whitney Houston and The Bodyguard. I remember waking up on Saturdays and waiting for ‘I Have Nothing’ to come up on Video Hits and I’d belt my lungs out. I hit those notes pretty well actually. The Whitney phase was short lived and today it’s Beyonce. Apart from being freakishly talented and hot as hell, you can tell that she is an incredibly hard worker with an eye for perfection. She’s an amazing talent that attacks everything she does with one hundred and fifty percent. I’m seeing her in Sydney in October, which should be dope.
TG: Who do you design for? Who is a Leroy Nguyen girl?
LN: I approach all of my work with an ethos of ‘youthful maturity’. I always feel that there’s something very brave about my clothes and the women that wear them. The LEROY NGUYEN girl is quietly confident, who doesn’t try too hard to be sexy. She’s elegant but bold in her fashion choices and appreciates the importance of quality and comfort. She likes to laugh and loves to live.
TG: What do you obsess over?
I eat out. A lot. Growing up in a family of restaurateurs, I’m always happy when good food is involved. It also makes me pretty critical. My mates always get nervous when they find themselves in situations that involve feeding me. So I guess you could say I obsess over the quality of food and ingredients that I use. When I hear that some people have cereal for dinner. That makes me sad.
TG: What is your current favourite movie/ tv show / band?
LN: Movie: Shawshank Redemption and Sin City.
TV show: I get seriously hooked on The Block.
TG: What is the inspiration behind this collection?
LN: My initial inspiration was the Gobstopper, my favourite sweet as a kid. With each layer there is a new colour, a new flavour, and this developed into the colour-blocking story seen in THE CANDY SHOP. I also drew inspiration from one of my favourite childhood novels/films ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. The digital prints used throughout the collection, were inspired by the psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, Willy Wonka wonderland within the film.
TG:Tell me about your next collection. You mentioned it is a bit of a departure from digital prints…
LN:In my first two collections, NATURAL BORN KILLER and THE CANDY SHOP, I used a lot of bonded silks, neoprene, organza and mesh. In my new collection NUTCRACKER, I do a one-eighty and explore an entirely new range of fabrication, with wool, cashmere and denim driving the range. There is still a good amount of digital print, but it’s taken in a new direction. Away from the fluid graphics that has previously been seen from me, but still very colour driven and graphic, still very Leroy Nguyen.
TG: Current state of mind?
TG: What is on the cards for the next year?
LN: Non-stop designing! My brain is already ticking over possibilities for the next Spring/Summer collection. I’ve been invited to participate in some fun events abroad, which is exciting for the brand. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in some down time while I’m there. I would also love to be involved with MBFWA again next year. The label is still incredibly young, having only launched earlier this year, so I’ll be dedicating my time to growing the business and really rooting it’s identity and presence within the Australian fashion market. I’ll be a very busy boy.
Photographed by : Ana Suntay Tañedo