Photography, Review

Fashion Creation – From idea to final show

The street lights glowed in the dark as the light drizzle added a soft shine to the road leading up to Gala Royal. It was early evening, June 20th 2013, and the TK09 students from Hoa Sen’s first bachelor program of Fashion Design  were about to start their graduation show “Fashion Creation”.

Inside, guests were filling up the seats, photographers assembling their gears and video tripods marked the press pit area. Models walked past, en route to back stage changing area while designers could be spotted across the room due to their serious faces. Tension was in the air. The rest of the crowd was at ease, smiling, reading the program and conducting small talk.

It was as any other fashion show, except to the designers involved, this did not feel like any other show, this was their show and it showed. From the serious faces before start, then the anxious looks when their models braved the catwalk, to the joy and sheer happiness when they walked the catwalk themselves, receiving applause for their efforts. Online, likes were being racked up on the various walls as proud parents and friends had already broadcasted the event to their Facebook streams.

A milestone, one of many more to come, had been achieved this evening and for that I would say it was a successful event. They had shipped their products and delivered. They had gone through with their ideas and visualised them. It takes a lot of hand work and dedication to bring ideas to life, however, no matter the hardship, the smiles of joy that evening made it all worth it. It felt great to witness it from front row.

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TEDxLive 2012 “Radical Openness” – TED x Mekong

Name tag for TEDx Mekong’s event.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to be one of the participants of the TEDxLive 2012 “Radical Openness” event that took place in cities worldwide, simultaneously streaming a live stream as part of the highlight of sharing ideas and connecting people around the world. 56 countries were connected, with over 140 cities participating.

“Radical Openness”. Radical is a scary word, a panelist said. Another quipped in that it is appropriate to our current time, where everything moves faster than anything possible 10-15 years ago. Internet changed our pace. Change has to start and come from inside you, the third panelist added to the conversation.

Being open, having an open mind. Do you have an open mind? Not as often as I would like to believe I have. An answer most of us can relate to. Having a closed mind must be easy. You simply block everything out and act with certainties. An open mind has to reflect and analyze. Having an open enough mind to accept that there is a possibility that you are wrong. Fail harder. Fail 7 times and stand straight on 8. Have your beliefs shaken to the core. Embrace change. Open up and change your way of thinking.

How do you deal with a beggar? Being acknowledged is what we all desire. Ignore a person and you will hurt them more than you could imagine.

These are all extract from the conversation that took place. A sample only. From 6.30pm to 9pm Saigon felt different. The live stream went well. No technical issues.

12 years ago when internet access was slow, this would not be possible. Saigon is moving ahead with radical speed. Connected. Ready to learn.

Hopefully open enough to change the perception of Copy & Paste as the panelist member highlighted. He had seen too many students as well as businesses, copying a successful concept abroad and pasting it into Vietnam, without considering if it would fit or not. Not everything that works abroad will work here. The business settings, perception and cultural values are different. Too many variables are different. Embrace ideas and creativity.

Next TEDx Mekong will take place in August.

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Purpleasia and Landor Associates – A strategic partnership

The Executive Brand Brunch at Strata, Level 50.

On March the 1st, Purple Asia and Landor Associates hosted an Executive Brand Brunch at Strata, Level 50 at the Bitexco Financial Tower in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City and not only did I get to cover the event, I also got to enjoy the presentations as well. Branding is an interest of mine and goes all the way back to my student days in London, UK. I spent my first internship at Coley Porter Bell and then secured an internship at Bagshawe Leahy that turned into a full-time design position. Branding and packaging design I have first hand knowledge of and my designer friends nicknamed me “Mr Back of Pack” due to my typographic obsession with the back-of-pack text that you find. Nutrition labels with proper ligatures for starters. My farewell gift was the aptly named software Fontographer.

So being able to watch the presentations from both Landor Associates and Purple Asia, I felt right at home and ten years younger.

Corporate literature.

Monica Au, Managing Director of Landor Associates.

Finger food and mingling.

Enjoying the view from Level 50.

Heading to the presentation room.

The entry greeting, air hostess style. Find your seat and buckle up.

Everybody seated and the presentation starts.

The event was covered by the television channel FBNC.

A captivated audience.

Jacqui Clement, Managing Director of Purple Asia.

Taking notes.

Matt Millard and Monica Au after the official signing of papers.

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Review, SaigonCreative

Let’s talk about fashion – Saigon Creative May event

Gen starting the presentation.

That’s what we did. We got the inside scoop. A journey of tales. Starting in Milan, where we learned that fresh graduates are being picked up by the fashion houses on next to nothing wages. €200-400 a month and a one year contract. Renegotiable upon end of year. Except that the contract will not be renewed and another fresh student will take that spot as well as having to find a part time job to sustain a life in the city. By life, it means food and shelter for most of your time will be spent working.

"What is fashion?"

All the glamourous images and smokescreens came tumbling down. Being a fashion designer is not glamourous at all. Hard work and true love and almost an obsession for fashion will take you further down fashion street, anyone else will get lost and have to find another path to walk on.

Very brutal. Very competitive. A business. A money making business. Money. It’s all about the money.

Graduates are leaving with ideas of how they want to change the world with their designs. We all have been there, young and naive and then we met the established system. Some can make it work by being a rebel, by being different, but they don’t sell well. Success is measured in sales.

Creativity within defined key elements based on the heritage of the brand. All brands change slowly and use their old designs for reference and modify them, but hardly will they do an all over re-design. Too much at stake. Nobody wants to lose sales and earnings and for prices, prices are set based on the perception of the brand value. For example, a €900 garment at wholesale price, will most likely retail at €1800, and cost only €30 to produce. You pay for your brand experience.

Gen showing samples of her work.

We learned about the trade shows, their mood booths and future trends. Everything you see is two years ahead.

We learned about a job title has many positions baked into to it. People are expected to help and get the job done. Such as when you are prototyping and your fashion show is only a few weeks ahead and your boss decides to scrap everything for a new vision and your staffs are hiding because of the scream they heard when the news broke.

2-3 hours sleep on average per night in the run up to fashion week. Having a show and the garments are still not ready. Getting the receptionist and the cleaners to help getting button holes done on time. Sewing decor elements directly onto the model the minute before stepping out on the catwalk and having to tear it all after the show.

Photographers photographing every piece of the collection on the day of the show, delivering images and the printers are working overnight to produce the look book that is delivered to all the buyers on the morning after the show.

While you are selling your current collection and dealing with buyers, you are researching and producing your next collection, the cycle never stops and Gen is traveling onwards, still in love with fashion, just like her heros, such as Jean Paul Gaultier: “I live fashion. I breathe fashion. I am fashion. Fashion is my passion.”

Thank you Gen for your inspirational speech!

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Recommended, Review, SaigonCreative

Saigon Creative’s event for April welcomed Tuan from the Propeller Group at Stella Cafe for: Culture exchange. Hip hop New York. Inspired Asian moves. Kung fu.

Tuan from Propeller Group in action.

Sunny Friday morning in Saigon and the Propeller Group represented by Tuan is ready to give a lecture to the early birds. Quite an exchange it was. A cultural exchange. The re-branding of Vietnam. Underground culture. Different from the underground in the past, the ones that everybody knows when you hear the word Vietnam. The tunnels, the fight, the struggle. The existing brand.

This is a very different underground. An underground that had seen graffiti but did not know what it was called until a backpacker visiting Hanoi in 2005 gave them the much needed information. A single word: Graffiti. Once the word was known, Google searches took place and more information was transferred.

Graffiti has blossomed since then. It is a reaction to advertising. Youth promoting their own voice. Is Vietnam becoming more Westernised? Do they only copy blindly? To that, we got a brief history about hip hop in New York. People often believe hip hop originated in New York, but when you ask the pioneers from the past, they would say that they got inspired by Asian moves. Balinese dance. Kung Fu. They saw something and adopted it. Fast forward and the best hip hop teams today originates in Asia.

The flow of exchange is made easier with the Internet. YouTube and Vimeo. Collaboration across the borders. The hip hop remix project.

Within in an hour we had jumped around subjects, seen videos and listened to music collaborations and had small debates. A member of the audience told us about a very special musical art form that is more or less unique to Vietnam. The blind man walking down alleys with blown out speakers, volume on max and playing 1920 raw blues tunes.

For those who missed out on yet another brilliant morning, please visit our new site and sign up for our newsletter. The events are always free of charge to attend.

Enjoy the images:

People finding seats at Stella and enjoying morning coffee.

Notebooks are a must to archive inspirational thoughts.

The more notebooks on display the better the lecture.

Discussion interchange.

Big thank you! to Tuan from Propeller Group for an interesting lecture.

My "Lucky Day" latte from Stella staff. It was a great day indeed!


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aSaigon/CreativeMorning March speaker Dinh Q.Le at Stella, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The early birds of Saigon.

Brilliant. Inspired. Moving. It was simply a great presentation and the early birds of Saigon enjoyed it. “I’m lovin’ it” to quote McDonalds, however, it was a far better deal. Unwrap a burger and you get disappointed as it never lives up to the tasty, juicy advertising image that sells you the deal in the first place.

Viewing one of Dinh's multimedia works.

Dinh unwrapped his thinking and reason behind his works. His research methods? Obsession he answered.

His work on Agent Orange was nothing but brilliant. His latest projects include exploring the visual language around us. If people with a voice can find a way around to get noticed, artists can too. He proved that with his Agent Orange shop.

Inspiration also arrived in a parcel. Tiki.vn sponsored the lucky draw.

The lucky draw gift from Tiki.vn.

Overall, a great start of the day, all thanks to the humble and yet so talented Dinh Q.Le

Portrait of Dinh Q.Le.

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CreativeMorning, Photography

A very creative morning with Adrian Jones

Coffee served by Malongo.

A big thank you to Malongo for serving great coffee and The Tin Foil Grill for the excellent food. Enjoy the images below from the event.

The guests arrived and found time for some mingling with one of the organizers, Sandrine.

David, another organizer together with Adrian Jones.

David kicking off the event.

Lights off, slideshow rolling. Art time.

Audience in action.

Adrian in response to comments.

Meeting area fully packed.

End of the slideshow.

A big "Thank you!" to Adrian Jones for a brilliant presentation.

If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, please follow this link. Be the first to know the next speaker and secure a seat.

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Recommended, Review

Saigon Creative Morning, a monthly serving of fresh ideas, inspiration, coffee & uncertain bakery items

Morning coffee for Creative souls.

Friday morning came, so did our attendees and our speaker, Dustin Nguyen. Coffee and pastry in hand, people started the small talk. Mingling around, then moved on to secure a good seat before kick off. After a short introduction, Dustin Nguyen pulled out a chair and started telling. An unplugged speech. An honest approach. Just as himself. Never over promise, never put yourself in a situation that you have promised something that you cannot deliver.

Hearing him tell about when he went into a meeting, sealed the deal, only to find out that most of what he wanted to do is not allowed in Vietnam. Going back and sorting it all out was humbling he said, but in my opinion shows guts and courage. Face the music upfront and you have less of a chance having your own party gatecrashed by unhappy investors or sponsors.

The whole event was filmed and will be released soon, please subscribe at Saigon Creative Morning’s website for further updates.

Below are some images from the event so you can get a feel of the venue and the setup. Enjoy!

Rockstar! David (Bowie) has just put on the music and his smile.

David giving a short introduction. Note the tie to pull down the garagedoor to divide the meeting room area.

The show is on!

Our first speaker, Dustin Nguyen.

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Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Godt Nyttår! Happy New Year! …and congratulations to the birth of Saigon Creative Mornings

Saigon Creative Mornings website

A new year and new opportunities. Back to Saigon after a Xmas break to Norway, images to come once the editing has been done. From wonderful Xmas food (extra kilos gained) and visits to friends and family it actually feels good to be back. After two weeks of enjoyment, boredom was setting in. Or, rather, restlessness to be busy again.

This year is off to a promising start and this month will see the birth of Saigon Creative Mornings.

Our first speaker is the actor Dustin Nguyen and the event sold out, or as it is free, got fully booked, in just a matter of days. Still not as crazy as in New York where these events are booked within minutes of going live on the web. Our waiting list is growing and unfortunately we don’t have more space available at the moment. It is exciting to see the response. Thank you everybody for making this happen.

Please join our LinkedIn group and participate with feedback and suggestions. Let us know who you want to see and hear. We also welcome sponsors. We have internationally renowned people that we can fly in if we have the funds available. There is no limit to where we can take it to with your help and support.

Let’s take our first step to a more creative year. Let’s make it worth it!

…and maybe change the cup of coffee to the Vietnamese Ca Phe Sua Da.

Coffee with ice and milk, Vietnamese style, aka Ca Phe Sua Da.

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Blue elephants at Saigon Zoo

The Big Show at Saigon Zoo 2010

Yes, the images are from the morning after, but no alcohol induced elephant visions, only cardboard prints of the mascot for The Big Show.

The Big Show has been around for some time. I remember the first show I went to hosted at Pierre’s former restaurant at Thai Van Lung street. Back in the old days. Work was pinned up on dividers set up in the restaurant and the creative community mingled. It has moved around to various venues. Sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, sometimes both.

The Big Show has gotten bigger over the years. Recently Sun Flower Media, my former employer, have been improving the show in some aspects.

Last year, the show was located at the cinema and sports complex at Nguyen Du, district 1. This year it was at the Saigon Zoo. Fitting place for elephants, even purple ones.

The opening evening draws the crowd and this year was no exception. I had not received any invite for the event, however, security staff handed out extras at the entrance, no worries, free for all. Great. We entered.

Sponsored booths at the entrance.

More corporate sponsors had been brought in, samples handed out freely, including snack to eat and liquid to drink.

Viewing the artworks.

Anyhow, the show must go on. For the first time, the works on display were actually unified in presentation style. All branded and printed out. It looked impressive compared to the previous events.

To view the work you needed to do a bit of walking as they were all displayed on long rows. At the end you had the big screen. Most people did not sit down, they chose to stand at the back. Sometimes it makes sense to hang at the back as you can make small talk without getting your ears blasted by the normally loud volume.

So far so good, or? What struck me was the feeling of fewer participants on display. They had a lot of work up. New work. International work. However, how many of the international campaigns make sense to the local audience if they do not know the culture that the campaign is targeting? I personally loved the ad for nose trimmers as they made used of the cable mayhem that you can see everyday in Vietnam. It is something that relates to here.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes it is not about how much we improve the current product if the product has lost its relevance.

According to Todd at Golden Digital (via David), it took only Vietnam 5 years to get up and going on the Internet. The young generation that is looking for inspiration, the very inspiration the Big Show used to provide, are finding that information easily online. They do not need to wait one year to see it on display.

They have probably bookmarked it several months ago and shared it on Facebook or Twitter or by email to friends. Internet is changing our ways of working and making certain elements and business models obsolete. It is the nature of evolution. Improve or die. Improving the packaging does not mean that the product itself is improved.

To me, personally, by attending an event such as the Big Show, it doesn’t give me much anymore. Except the possibility to actually bump into interesting people. To me, it is more an networking opportunity than an actual learning experience. It didn’t used to be like that. 10 years ago with slow internet access and few book stores, information was highly prized. These days you order on Amazon.com and get it shipped. Some bookstores even will do that for you and deliver to your door these days. Internet has changed Vietnam and it is still changing rapidly. The recent BarCamp gathering is gaining serious traction and more IT companies are relocation to Vietnam.

For a design student, yes, it is interesting to see work on display, however, what you need as a student is not the finished product but a peak at the process. How you got to that idea is far more interesting to know than seeing the final product. What sparks your imagination? What gets you inspired? These are the important questions.

People in the creative industry are complaining how hard it is to find local creative talent and how they wish the local design education could improve. Well, to only see the final product, you feed the industry of copyist that will take what they see and, well, copy that. They will not understand the creative process. They will not be used to do research. They will not be used to do analysis. They will not innovate.

By showing end results only, you will not create the opportunity to learn from the process. In the past, having access to international work was an inspiration as there was very difficult to access that information otherwise, however, technology has made that information so accessible that the need is no longer there.

Next step on the evolution ladder is to understand more about the process and foster an environment that can be creative and innovative. We don’t need more technical jockeys, we need innovators.

One of the remaining strengths of The Big Show is that it highlights the creative industry in the media, but how about extending the current scope and try to look at other ways to bring better value. To evolve and improve.

Watching re-runs.

Walking at the show the day after was sobering. Still a few visitors to the show. Lots of families with kids that did not come for the show but for their weekly family trip to the Zoo. Saigon does not have many child friendly places and activities and the zoo is one of the most popular ones. The biggest crowd gatherer was not the work on display, but the artists drawing portraits for the public. The stage was empty. The screen showing re-runs of the reels. Staff sitting around waiting for the time to pass so they could wrap it all up.

Imagine the effort put into creating the event. The marketing material produced, the advertising of the event, the building of the stage and different booths. All the staff to make it happen. For mainly a one night stand. The opening of the show.

How about using the next day inviting the local agencies for short presentations? Make and publish a schedule. Get people to come and listen and see the work and hear about the process the day after. Get more out of the event than just an evening. BarCamp is successful for the presentations. People come to listen. To learn. There is a real interest here. Evolve and be part of the progress or wither as a dinosaur. The show will always go on.

Critics of BarCamp are saying it is too long between the events. They want it more often. The same I say about The Big Show. Once a year is not enough in the current state. Daily I can access international campaigns as they are published online. What I want is interaction. Human interaction.

As they say, find an itch and fix it. Best way to invent a new product or service. Well, Creative Mornings are about to see the light in Saigon. A monthly get together for creatives. Takes place in the mornings only. A healthy stimuli. Scheduled for launch in January. Stay tuned!

The show goes on.

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Saigon Scooter Centre’s annual Charity Run 2010

This year was the fifth anniversary of the Charity Run event organized by Saigon Scooter Centre. My first time to attend. The event raises money for charity and the full information can be accessed here.

This will be the longest blog post in terms of images. Take a look and get a feel of the day. Truly worth experiencing again. Need to get a proper scooter first. Enjoy!

Morning registration.

Mounting the official banner for the bikes.

A girl and her scooter... and her spectators.

Changing into official T-Shirts the male model way.

You show your image and I take yours.

Official sticker proudly displayed.

Custom built ride of the day. Patrick got it ready the day before. Brakes installed during breakfast.

Get your Santa-on-Wheels portrait. Two phones at the time.

@Caligarn during breakfast.

Patrick, the organiser and owner of Saigon Scooter Centre on the left.

Mr 720, aka @vietnam720, in action.

Ho Chi Minh City's District 12 Motorbike Club

Club members unite.


Detail of scooter with banner mounted in front.

The entrance banner.

Mr Union Jack.


Kick off with @Caligarn aiming for the lead.

It's all on video! DVD from the day available from Saigon Scooter Centre.

Scooter down. Still all good. Thumbs up!

That's how we roll!

Short stop to let people catch up. All documented.

Camera man in action. Police in action. Riders in action.

Setting off! Break over.

Patrick on his custom bike.

Pitstop before having lunch at the resort.

All parked and ready for lunch.




Time to go. Lunch done.

Lunch over. Next stage!

Getting to the bikes and off to the next location.

Road is filling up.

Not only for scooters.

Arriving at the Pagoda and orphanage.

Santa-on-Wheels backdrop in place.

Banner with all the sponsor logos. We are the one with a red camera.



It's Vespa alright.

Children at the orphanage getting gifts.

A candy moment.

All the candy in my world.

The water gun game. Shoot'em down.

Free rides for all.

Let's ride!

Another round please.



The arrival of Santa!

Santa is here!

It's Christmas gift time!

One of the children at the orphanage to see Santa.

Time to leave!







Patrick arriving at the party directly from the road.



The stage with DJ and projector showing previous year's run.

The band!


Yes! I won! I'm so lucky, lucky!

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