Southern fashion designer Khanh Nguyen has been surrounded by fashion and textiles her entire life, so it's no wonder that she started the glamorous Nha Khanh brand in 2010. We sat down with the Dallas-born designer to talk about her inspiration, her recent look for Emmy winner Kate McKinnon, and her advice for up-and-coming designers.
SL: What inspires your designs?
KN: Nature and architecture.
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SL: Is there a particular designer that you look up to?
KN: I admire the work of late designers Cristobal Balenciaga & Christian Dior the most, for sure.
SL: How did you decide to create this Emmy look for actress Kate McKinnon?
KN: We worked with Kate's amazing stylist, Tom Broeker, to bring the vision behind Kate's gown to life. We wanted to create a special gown for her to shine while keeping that refined elegance of the dress. Red is such a royal, powerful, and sexy color. With Kate's porcelain skin tone, she truly shined and looked radiant on stage with the blue backdrop while accepting her Emmy award. It was magical and magnificent!
SL: How did you get started in the fashion industry?
KN: It's a funny story, because I originally went to medical school. Mid-way through, my natural passion for style made me quit school and pursue a design degree. My parents had always been in the textile and custom design business, but they didn't necessarily want me to take the same route. My first major design job was creating my wedding gown, along with bridesmaids' dresses.
After my wedding, I decided to fully entertain the idea of creating my own collection. Amazing enough, women in Dallas were incredibly receptive of my collection and began to spread the word. Today, our line is carried by Saks Fifth Avenue, Tootsies, Stanley Korshak, and other exclusive retailers around the country.
SL: What would be your advice for up-and-coming designers?
KN: Fashion design is not all about the glitz and glam. It truly matters how much you are willing to sacrifice, and it's a total labor of love. You must understand the technical aspects and construction of the garment. Then, you apply your aesthetic using that technical knowledge. You also must have great patience and develop a thick skin – your designs are not made for everyone.
SL: How would you describe Nha Khanh's style?
KN: Our line of work focuses strongly on cocktail and bridal wear. I design dresses to celebrate milestones and special moments in life.
SL: Why did you choose the name Nha Khanh for your brand?
KN: Nha Khanh is my own name. "Nha" is my middle name and it means grace, where my "Khanh" is my first name and it means celebration or victory. The name has a combination of femininity and masculinity, and best fits our refined elegant style.