Apparel designer Song Anh Nguyen ’12has a unique approach – challenging herself to create harmony from two conflicting elements. A modern aesthetic with a vintage look, for instance. Or an industrial design blended with natural elements. When she won a national competition held by VF Corporation, the world’s largest apparel company, two more opposites united: a young woman who rarely wore denim was selected to design the next great pair of jeans.
“I tend to wear dressier styles, but I’ve come to wear jeans a lot more now,” she says. Jeans have become a big part of her career, now that she has created a denim design that’s turning heads and is available for sale online to VF’s global e-commerce market.
Song’s winning design for Wrangler’s Next Blue contest holds true to her creative approach. Marrying the comfort and ease of denim with a tailored, business style, her jeans give career men and women a professional denim look that they can wear to the office.
Song was also an intern for VF’s Riders by Lee brand. “It’s not just about the designs. You have to think about the consumers. VF helped me understand the business side and complemented what I learned in my apparel classes,” she says. “I realized there are consumers we had not thought of before, people who have a hard time finding jeans that are appropriate for work.”
Recycled design, fresh perspective
Community members are another important segment to Song. One person in particular helped shape that mindset: Professor Melanie Carrico. One of Carrico’s assignments called for her students to experiment with materials other than fabric. Song was inspired by a rice bag, but she didn’t have enough bags to complete her design. Carrico reached out the people behind the Out of the Garden project, an organization that feeds local school children and their families. More rice bags were donated to Song’s design, and as a result, Song was able to bring more attention to their cause.
“She put the idea in my head that we, as designers, can reach out more to our community. Plus, her methods make you want to try harder and do better. I liked having tougher teachers because I don’t want to settle for less.”
Song doesn’t settle. She goes out of her way to integrate meaning into her work. Collaboration and relationships are important to her, and you see it in more than her personal design mission to harmonize two conflicting entities. It’s in smaller instances as well. During her senior year when she was vice president of THREADS, the Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies student organization, she reached out across campus to find models for the fashion show. “I didn’t want to limit it. I knew MFA dancers or musicians would add so much to the event.” Indeed. When MFA dancers Kimberly Wilson, Caroline Gray, Leslie Noble began moving down the runway, energy shifted in the ballroom.
Now that Song has graduated, she’s leaving her options open and says she is ready to go wherever she can find more experience and challenge. Her inspiration comes from her parents, who emigrated from Vietnam to America when Song was 6 years old. “They gave up everything for us and they worked a lot of hard jobs when they came here. With everything I do, I think of them, and that pushes me to keep going.”
Photography by Chris English, University Relations