When an Outsider Breaks Through

“I am an outsider,”  says designer Hoang Quyen, a surprising confession from someone who has made it in the fashion industry. Not many people are brave enough to admit such a thing. However, sometimes being an outsider is an advantage, especially in a creative field. An outsider can go beyond norms, frameworks, or theories. An outsider might have the courage to bring about innovation.

Quyen and her brand, Tiny Ink, strive to inspire using acrylic colours and hand drawing techniques. Before becoming a designer, she used to work in events and marketing, fields that seem to have no connection with her current job. But, since the age of eight, she was in love with fashion, at first through her auntie’s sewing books. She worked in the events industry in Hanoi until 2012 when she went to Saigon and founded Tiny Ink.

Understanding the disadvantages of being an outsider in the fashion world, Quyen broadened her knowledge by taking foreign courses and reading books. It took her seven years to get where she is today.  “I am luckier than my classmates or other young people. Due to fate, I found a field that fit me, and I love it. I feel like I was born to do it.”

Today her name and brand are well known in the Vietnam fashion industry. Many stars appear in her designs at major fashion events, such as last year’s Vietnam International Fashion Week or Korean – ASEAN Fashion Week (ASEAN RoK Fashion Week) in Busan.

What made you bring oil paintings into your designs?

The idea of ​​creating hand-crafted fashion designs came to me by what I call “divine providence.” When I first came up with the idea, I researched it on the Internet. I realized that I had never learned about art, never actually seen an oil painting, even though art is fundamental to life. My colleagues and I wanted to bring art closer to life through fashion. From there, it would help women to think more about art.

Many customers told me they were proud to wear Tiny Ink designs when meeting foreign partners and friends. They said that those friends were amazed by the painting on the outfit. They were very happy to share that this is the work of Vietnamese painters, created by a Vietnamese fashion brand. Vietnam is a country with a lot of talented artists, but they have not been promoted widely. It is our mission to promote Vietnam’s talents through the fashion pathway.

Why did you name the brand Tiny Ink?

I always thought that everything in this world originated from the smallest things. Most creative production comes from a tiny drop of ink. Little drops of ink can paint a whole, colourful world.

Can you share more about Tiny Ink’s fashion designs?

Tiny Ink uses acrylic paints. We do not use oil paint because that leads to oil slicks, and it cracks and peels easily. Acrylic is used by many painters as an alternative for oil paints. This water based colour uses alcohol as a solvent, which is friendly and safe for health and has high colour adhesion. In addition to using acrylic colours, Tiny Ink uses additional techniques to increase colour adhesion and create beautiful effects for patterns. In terms of fabric, in the beginning, we had a lot of difficulties designing with some materials. But, after seven years of research, we have found fabric that is right for our textures.

What is the main inspiration for your designs?

I was born in Northwest Vietnam, where there are many plateaus. Growing up at the “intersection” of the plains and mountains, my personality reflects a similar fusion. For a long time, I was interested in the Northwest region, where people are rustic and friendly, generous but also very strong and sturdy. For me, whatever I know best, I will do the best. And of course, if I love it, I will do even better. I love and understand plateaus. This inspiration directs my brand.

Every designer brand has a specific style. What is Tiny Ink’s?

Minimalism, using 1980s and 1990s colour tones, with hand drawn patterns.

Who are the target customers of Tiny Ink?

The slogan I often use is “My design is for women who are still fighting.” They are Asian women working in business, diplomacy, and other fields. They are strong but full of femininity, sturdy but still soft.

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