Designing For Modern Women: When Fashion Meets Feminism
By Mariam Sharia
“Life is about balance,” says Dallas-based designer Khanh Nguyen. Clad in a silk magenta top and flared red pants, a combination few could master, she continues,“We need it to make us whole.”
Nguyen didn’t choose fashion — it chose her. Not in a corny it-came-to-me-in-a-dream sort of way, either. With a pair of tailor grandparents and a mother who owned her own bridal salon in Nguyen’s native Vietnam, her life path almost seemed predestined. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t major roadblocks along the way.
Frankly, Nguyen’s dad was pissed when, four years into college, she suddenly changed her major from biology to fashion design. And pissed is an understatement; the truth is he didn’t talk to her for two years. Such is the burden, she says, of a first-generation immigrant kid — the drive to not disappoint, to work hard, and to succeed.
Nguyen did all of that and more. Today she owns the highly successful fashion line Nha Khanh, which is sold by big names like Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Rent The Runway. She’s also a wife and a mother. It certainly isn’t easy, but it helps when your attitude is “nothing is impossible.”
Such a potentially cliche statement coming from anyone else might not be believable, but it is when Nguyen says it. Her attitude is one that genuinely represents that ethos. A Vietnamese immigrant becoming a fashion powerhouse is not impossible, she says. Switching majors in the last year of undergrad is not impossible either. Successfully wearing the hats of mother, wife, business owner, creative designer? Not. Impossible.
Couple this dogma with her answer when asked what she draws inspiration from (which is literally everything: “The ocean, the wind, the flowers, I try to find beauty in everything I see”) and you begin to understand why Nguyen is so successful in both life and business. Anything is achievable, and everything is beautiful.
When asked about how fashion and feminism intersect, Nguyen pauses. She’s too humble to say so, but she is an embodiment of that cloverleaf: artist, designer, fashion icon. Woman of color, immigrant, entrepreneur.
She may make gorgeous garments but says, “clothes are just clothes.” The real beauty, after all, resides within the woman who wears them.