The young girl forgets herself as she paints a pattern of colourful flowers onto silk, then she carefully hangs it up. Once the colours are dried, she sighs with relief and satisfaction as she looks at the beautiful blooming flowers and the dress she has just painted the image on.
With a passion for fine arts and fashion, Hoang Nhu Quyen combines the two and creates Tiny Ink, the first fashion brand name in HCM City where hand-painted dresses are produced. Since its establishment last year, Tiny Ink’s silk dresses, which look like beautiful canvases, have become a fashion trend.
Last month, Quyen introduced her most appealing collection of artisan dresses as the Brilliant Summer collection to the Phong Cach Tre (Young Style) fashion show in HCM City, and it wowed many fashionistas.
Quyen saw hand-painted dresses for the first time during the Milan Fashion Week in 2008 through television news stories and magazines. The unique designs with their hand-painted patterns impressed her ever since.
One day when Quyen went shopping, she saw a pair of shoes with acrylic paint sprinkled on.
Immediately she asked herself why not try the same idea using clothes?
“The Vietnamese fashion industry has been using paint to decorate clothing for a long time, but only on ao dai (traditional long dress) and T-shirts for young people,” Quyen said. “I’m eager to use oil paint to create mainstream, hand-painted fashion for everyone.”
Quyen began her work last year with the help of several friends who are designers and painters, but one by one they gave up as they were afraid of making a loss.
“It was risky for me to pursue my dream after failing many times, but I remained determined,” Quyen confessed. “I invested much time and money but I was never satisfied with the products.
“Being a pioneer means that I’m faced with both opportunities and challenges, but see my style as being successful and I believe this new trend has a future – that’s what motivates me to work.”
Remaining optimistic and using her creativity, Quyen never stops trying and gradually customers begins paying attention to her dresses.
To make really unique outfits, Quyen takes great care of each of the products that she makes. Anyone who visits her workshop would be surprised to see that she still uses an old-fashioned sewing machine the shower speed of which, according to her, allows tailors to make finer, better quality products.
“First, I select coloured fabrics that suit the design, for example silk, satin and chiffon are suitable for painting designs like tender foliage, while jean and denim are ideal for strong, abstract patterns,” Quyen said.
“We design simple outfits in order to highlight the sophisticated hand-painted pictures.”
Quyen says the most difficult step is painting the design on the dress because the painter isn’t working on a flat surface, like a canvas.
“We must be very careful in the process of drawing, otherwise the colours may be absorbed through different layers of the dress,” she said.
Quyen says it’s hard to estimate how long a dress will take to complete because it depends on how complicated the drawing is.
“One of my most satisfying artworks is an image of a peacock stretching its colourful tail feathers painted on navy blue silk,” she said. “It took a day to paint its eyes, but how soulful they are.”
The oil paint used for these hand-painted outfits is durable once it dries, but Quyen still recommends to her customers that they carefully wash the dresses by hand.
After one year of unrelenting work, the ambitious girl has built up her own fashion brand which is now popular among fashion lovers.
Tiny Ink focuses primarily on fashion for women aged between 20-40, but its owner still dreams of opening more shops across the country and creating new products for people of all ages. — VNS