An Interview with Tai Nguyen

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November 16, 2019 by Ville Raivio

VR: Your age and occupation?
TN: I am 29, been doing different things but right now working in the financial industry.

VR: Your educational background?
TN: I am a graduate of the Aalto University business school in Helsinki.

VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style obsession)?
TN: No children as of yet, I have a spouse and she has been very understanding towards my obsession. We’ve been together for some time and she has observed my journey in this hobby with great tolerance.

VR: …how about your parents’ and siblings’ reactions when your style interest began?
TN: I don’t think that they are surprised by my interest in style, but rather the change in it as I have developed throughout the years since I left my home country. Since the time I was a kid, I have always been interested in style overall. Of course it was not the style that I have right now, but I remember always wanting to wear “uncommon” clothes, such as an odd vest or interesting shirts, when I was little. Many bad choices, but still something different.

I sometimes consider it a perk of living in Helsinki (maybe?), but no one really makes a fuss about your hobby and, in my case, what I wear everyday. I sometimes get compliments and questions regarding how I dress. I find out that simple reaction such as “Oh thank you” and “It’s one of my hobbies” work very well here. Over time you and people around you get used to it.

VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
TN: I loved electric guitars (in a geeky way) since the time I was in high-school and university. Always been a mediocre player though, but I love everything that goes into the make and the nuances of all those things. Still have a Fender Telecaster and a small tube Marshall amp at home and take them out for a spin from time to time.

VR: How did you first become interested in clothing, and when did you turn your eyes towards the tailored look?
TN: As said, since I was a kid I have always wanted to wear “interesting” (not necessarily stylish…) stuff. My personal style might be vastly different at different phases of my life though: so from black rock-band-t-shirts to slim-preppy-red-chinos. I guess I have always been interested in expressing a little bit of myself through clothes. Around the time I got out of university, I saw a really cool video series from Putthison. I did some more research for a while, then classic menswear and tailoring got me hooked.

VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of clothing — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
TN: Books and mostly the internet when I started, when Tumblr, written blogs and forums were still relevant and Instagram was not popular. I remember borrowing “Dressing the man” from the city library and felt sufficiently snobbish about it… But I humbly think that the most effective method of learning is from really trying (and failing) different things to see the differences in fit, in quality, and in style.

VR: How would you describe your style?
TN: Tough question since my style has gone through changes all the time; and the changes are getting more subtle but there still are some. I would say I am heavily influenced by the soft tailoring realms (maybe Southern Italy, but I love my Ring Jackets and can’t call them Southern Italian though) but with more subtle color palettes that recently lean more towards earth tones. One thing I’ve done lately is to keep my jackets’ silhouette a bit more classic but experiment more with different trouser cuts.

VR: Do you have a particular style or philosophy of cut behind your commissions?
TN: The more expensive the item I commission, the more subtle and “boring” (i.e. not loud and crazy) they are.

VR: Who or what inspires you?
TN: I am intrigued by the people who can take classic menswear items and give them a fresh spin and attitude but still retain the craftsmanship value. Even though they sometimes are not necessarily things I would try, I get huge inspiration from such people. Examples from recent memory are Saman Amel, S.E.H. Kelly, or Drake’s. And then there are the people who do not work in the menswear industry that have the best pieces of tailoring but wear them so discretely and simply that you can only notice if you are a nerd in classic menswear – I also take inspiration from them.

VR: What’s your definition of style?
TN: It’s already a cliché to say that style should be personal, comfortable, yet deliberate (important I think); but to me it’s still true. If someone can take the things they wear in their everyday life (taking partly into consideration social contexts) and infuse some of their intentional and conscious choices (put in thoughts and ideas on what make you look good to you) that make their outfits personal and interesting, then it’s a good thing. Not just tailored clothing or classic menswear, but with any different genres of styles.

VR: Finally, you decided to move to Finland some years ago. What was the motivation, and how would you describe the tailored styles of Finland compared to Vietnam?
TN: I moved here a long time ago, to pursue my studies. I think there is a similarity in which both Vietnam and Finland do not have our own tailoring styles, you can’t pinpoint what makes a Finnish tailored style or Vietnamese jacket cuts. To my eyes, the classic tailoring from Vietnam was influenced by the French in the past (think padded shoulders, closed quarters), then more recently the Korean pop culture swept away the youth’s dressing culture (short and tight-fitting jackets, shiny fabric).

There used to be less varieties there in terms of tailored styles, only maybe recently there are more Italian-style tailoring – it’s like a trend after all. In Finland, the people I’ve met who are interested in tailored / classic menswear styles are quite open, yet many tend to prefer southern-Italian-styled cuts (soft and close shoulders, slimmer fit) – I think we could do with a bit more variety ;-)
https://www.instagram.com/tai_tnt/

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