From the inside out

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Danish designer sees clothes as a way to express the beauty within the wearer

Elisabeth Rolskov (R) preparing the dress she designed for Nguyen Ngoc Kieu Khanh, a runner-up at Miss World 2010

Elisabeth Rolskov's look was so compelling that she was offered an on­the­spot modeling deal by Diva Models after an agency representative saw her strolling down ChampsÉlysées in Paris when she was only 13 years old.

But Rolskov, now 26, never grew tall enough for a modeling career in her native Denmark, though that's fine with her.

"It was never my real passion," she says. "My passion for fashion design started much earlier I've always dreamed about having my own fashion company. That's what I've always wanted ever since I was a little girl, drawing clothes for my paper dolls."

She's now drawing clothes for real people, and she's doing it from Ho Chi Minh City.

Rolskov first traveled to Vietnam in 2004, a trip on which she met her fiancée. She moved with him to Hong Kong in 2005, and in 2007 the couple relocated to HCMC, where Rolskov studied fashion at Raffles International College and began putting the pieces of her dream together.

Before long, she had opened her own clothing company, ER Couture Copenhagen, in HCMC's wealthy District 2 expat neighborhood, known as An Phu.

ER Couture fuses Northern European fashion styles with a unique new collection of cloths, shoes and accessories.

"Danish fashion culture is very minimalist in its expression and commonly combines very raw material with ultra feminine materials: like leather combined with silk," says Rolskov, adding that she looks to infuse her work with Asian, and more specifically Vietnamese, features.

"I find that the fashion scene in Saigon is more feminine and more classic with a tendency toward "˜more­is­more,' whereas people in Denmark believe "˜less­is­more'," says Rolskov, who uses only natural fabrics such as silk, wool, cotton, linen and leather in her collections. Her work features delicate and bold lines as well as fabric manipulations that enhance the attractive curves of a womanly figure.

She also proudly designed a dress for Vietnam's Miss World 2010 competitor Nguyen Ngoc Kieu Khanh.

Rolskov's designs are influenced by her Danish background, but the fact that she has been living overseas for so long is also reflected in her designs.

After living in Hong Kong, China and Vietnam, a variety of different cultures have become a part of her and her designs, especially her newest collection "Cross­section."

"People say that beauty comes from within I agree," says Rolskov. "Therefore this collection takes inspiration from what is within."

But channeling what's inside to express an emotion through the dress is no easy task.

"Basically the design process is never ending, I still change designs after reviewing the first sample to increase the garment's functionality."

It's a painstaking process.

"I like cropping down images and viewing objects such as flowers, wood and vegetable from new angles. Then I begin brainstorming with words that reflect a theme, attached with functions, colors, textures, materials and so on. In this process, a mood­board begins to appear and is followed by sketching," she says. "I really love the process and working close together with my tailors."

But for a designer, Vietnam has some limitations as a sourcing location. Sourcing high­quality material, buttons and zippers can be a challenge. Rolskov therefore works with details and fabric manipulations to make up for it. And when she needs more elaborate lace or more complex materials, she orders it from Hong Kong.

This new designer's life has certainly changed a lot since she moved to HCMC. But all for the better.

"In Vietnam it's possible to take more chances and follow your dreams of being an entrepreneur," says Rolskov.

"I'm grateful for all the experiences and challenges I've had in Saigon."

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