Model Cha Mi (right), a favorite contestant at Vietnam's Next Top Model 2013, leads the show of French designer Julien Fournie in Singapore last November.
Haute couture designs were paraded for the first time at the Vietnam Fashion Week Spring Summer 2014 for spring and summer collections held this week in Hanoi.
Veteran designer Minh Hanh said the introduction of the high-sewing, exclusive custom-fitted and mostly hand-made clothing in the local market is a step that takes Vietnamese fashion closer to meeting all demands in international markets.
The Vietnam Fashion Week was held over four nights December 22-25 at Vietnam Television studio S14, featuring 40 models displaying collections of 23 designers that included the top 3 finishers of the first season of Fashion Star Vietnam, an adaption of the US original show, which ended December 21.
Seven haute couture collections, including by Minh Hanh, were presented on the final night.
Shops that want to sell haute couture items, called haute couture houses, must be members that follow the rules of the Trade Union Of High Fashion, an association of Parisian couturiers founded in 1868, and obtain approval of the designers.
"If we are not able to make these, we will not thrive," Hanh told news website VnExpress.
There are promising signs as prominent designers are making similar efforts to place themselves on the international scene.
Nguyen Cong Tri, considered the most successful designer in Vietnam with regular high-end collections released over the last ten years, became the first Vietnamese to present his designs at London Fashion Week 2013.
He will return next February for its Autumn Winter 2014 show as advisor for winner of Aquafina's design contest Aquafina Pure Fashion that ended late December.
Designer Nguyen Quynh Nhu, better known as Quynh Paris after she graduated from Parisian Mode' Art International, presented three collections over the past year at the All Aboard program at the Los Angeles Fashion Week. Her creations were donned by American models.
She was recently invited by the Otis College of Art and Design in California to judge a graduation show and is preparing to launch a new collection at Newport Beach California in January.
Designer Vo Viet Chung last November presented Vietnamese traditional dress ao dai on South Korean TV channel MBC.
Some fashion mingling is also happening thanks to the adaptation of US design and model contests in Vietnam.
Last September, Hoang Minh Ha, winner of the first season of Project Runway Vietnam 2013, a reality show adapted from the original US fashion design contest, was the only Vietnamese designer at the renowned Tiffany's Fashion Week Paris. Ha also received orders from a US-based fashion store at the show.
The first season of Fashion Star Vietnam has also opened new doors for the top 5 finishers, besides giving VND1.5 billion (US$71,500) in prize money to the three finalists.
As part of the contest awards, the five fresh designers will be flown to France, Italy and South Korea in the near future and put to work with famous designers and clothing brands in the fashion kingdoms.
Vietnam's Next Top Model, which just closed its fourth edition, has also brought many foreign designers to Vietnam, drawn by the distinct looks of Vietnamese models, their freshness and their working enthusiasm.
Frank Cintamani, president of Asian Couture Federation, said he is impressed with young Vietnamese models.
Their body features match high fashion standards and their faces glow with the eastern beauty that is currently a favorite on global catwalks, he said.
Jay Alexander, a leading catwalk trainer, also told local media December 20 ahead of the finale of Vietnam's Next Top Model 2013, that Vietnamese have a special attractiveness.
Alexander came to Vietnam on the recommendation of super model Tyra Banks, who founded the contest in the US and attended the finale of the Vietnamese adaptation in 2012. Banks told him that Vietnamese models possess beauty that stands out.
He said after just several days working with local models, he was satisfied with their readiness to act on his advice and their hard-working spirit.
The model contest has actively promoted the Vietnamese catwalk industry by putting its contestants on foreign runways, like the New York Fashion Week Spring Summer 2013 late last year, or Fide Fashion Week in Singapore last November.
Cha Mi, top 4 finisher in the contest this season, helped French designer Julien Fournie win many orders for her creations used in the Singapore show.
Mi was chosen to open the show as she has a beautiful and unique face, Fournie told VnExpress, comparing her with Naomi Campbell.
He said he has never worked with models shorter than 1.78 meters, and Mi is only 1.74 meters, but she is an exception.
Apart from the height, she has a perfect figure, a noble and largely emotional face, and is full of freshness, the designer said.
He said Mi's disadvantage as an amateur is also an advantage for the show, as her sometimes shaky walk adds drama to the collection, highlighting its message that any strong woman is vulnerable and needs protection.
He also praised Mi for her desire to learn and improve, that she was always in the middle of her practice anytime he saw her.
Fournie and some other foreign designers have also featured other contestants this year in their new collections.
Mi's predecessor Tuyet Lan, first runner-up of the first edition of the contest in 2010, has become an exclusive model with US model and talent management company Wilhelmina Models.
Lan was recommended by Her World magazine in Vietnam to join the Asian Model Search in Singapore in 2011. She went on to win the contest.
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