Interview With Fashion Designer Bao Ta


January weighing you down? Inane sales driving you mad? Bored of the same high street stuff? Bao has that covered with his divine, vibrant creations.

May I present Mr Bao Ta who creates the most exquisite garments, every single one hand crafted in the UK, (even if the garments exude a rich, almost exotic opulence far from our British borders.)

Each luxurious design is individually created, with hand embellishment and intricate fabrication at the forefront of the Bao Ta aesthetic.


Charming, driven and funny – I spent an hour drinking coffee with fashion designer Bao Ta in the timelessly edgy Soho, London, whose talented Vietnamese mother inspired his company. (We started off in Italian Princi but the lunch-timers got rowdy so we made an executive decision to hide away in Le Pain Quotidien.)

Bao offers an intimate, inspiring insight into his journey to becoming a fashion designer of ‘accessible’ couture creating  unique womenswear items.

So, lovely to meet you Bao Ta! You came from a family of dressmakers – did this have an impact on where you are today?

Well, I’ve always beaten my own drum. I don’t know how much you know about Asian culture but they either want you to be a doctor, pharmacist, lawyer or accountant. When I was fifteen I wanted to make my parents happy so I naturally went through the Science route, but I was so miserable! I wanted to please them but at the same time it wasn’t who I was. So I retook the whole year and started again doing Textiles. It was like night and day, I thrived there! The teacher at the time saw how passionate I was. My mum, being part of the Vietnamese culture, was very talented at hand embroidering so perhaps subconsciously, my love of designing was always there.


After your final year as a student at Westminster university, you gained sponsorship from Copenhagen Fur, how did that feel?

That was very exciting as they only sponsor two people per year from the whole of London! I was picked as well as another guy from the Royal College of Art. We were flown over to Coopenhagen and stayed in a beautiful, five star hotel and – being a student at the time – I thought it was amazing and felt very lucky. We were taken to various studios and shown how everything is done in the fashion industry. Seen as my colour palette was electric blue [at the time] I got to work with turquoise mink. Copenhagen Fur have actually sponsored me again for my upcoming collection [Autumn-Winter 2014.] They sent me six mink for it: three black and three burgundy so I am excited about that.

Let’s talk a bit about your work experience: what was it like working for Cynthia Rowley?

After my second year I wanted to do a year out. I’ve always loved New York so decided it’d be more interesting to find work there than in England. I then started researching designers and sent some of my stuff to Cynthia Rowley [American fashion designer] and they loved it! I thought I’d learn a lot under her. I probably shouldn’t say this – but it was a little like The Devil Wears Prada! She was a bit night and day to be honest. I worked with the production team where we got to see some designs after the catwalk show. We did some pattern cutting and re-did samples. I was lucky to learn so much – with Boudicca [Haute couture brand in London] I had to hand-sew buttons – I didn’t learn anything. The first day with Cynthia, they gave me a dress and asked me to redesign it and then put it through production. So I did the pattern cutting and changed the design and then showed it to my director who passed it to Cynthia – she liked it and put it in production! I mean, that level of responsibility you would never get over here. In America, I think as long as you back up with what you’ve got they will give you the chance. If you work really hard that is: no procrastinating or wasting time.

“ I think as long as you back up with what you’ve got they will give you the chance. If you work really hard that is: no procrastinating or wasting time”

Your company then started in 2013 and was sponsored by The Princes Trust (a youth charity,) – how did this happen?

Somebody told me about the enterprise so I got in touch with them – I told them my style was namely Luxury Womenswear, and luckily this was a new thing for them. At first they were weary as it costs so much to produce. There is a limited loan and grant, £4000, which is not very much in my area of expertise. There also is an intense training course where I was taken through every single thing: business aspects such as cash flow, taxes. It was a good way for them to sift people out as many were like: “this isn’t for me!” It was a good way to see who wants to be dedicated for the long run. After the course, they then find you a mentor similar to your industry. I had a lady called Loretta (who helped bring Estee Lauder over to England in the sixties). She was great – I mean, I didn’t know how to do cash flow or a chart of my predictions and she supported me in all that. Other courses were about SEO and we even learnt how to talk and communicate with clients and create press packs. It was fantastic because all these courses were free as part of the enterprise. It took me about a year to get everything right and to create a business plan.


  And how would you describe your items within the fashion industry?

 I would say they are wearable, haute couture. They are unique, glamourous items for modern women.

 What would you say is your speciality or unique selling point  in  the items you create?

Well, all my clothes are individually hand-made in London and this sets        me apart from a lot of my competitors like [Alice] Temperley who, even        though Luxury, has her garments made in China or India. I really               wanted     to bring back the English heritage, I felt it was important to      channel that       and get everything made in London. The reason why my brand is expensive is all down to the cut. My items are wearable but there is a visible hand finish. It is all to do with how the final product comes together.


Your clothes are made from fabric that is sourced world-wide – where do you get it from exactly?

I try to go through a lot of British suppliers – but sometimes you can’t. New York has a massive fashion district compared to London, I mean –there are whole streets dedicated to buttons! When I lived in New York I was so amazed by it. In London, it’s a bit more limited, there are areas like Shepherds Bush and Berwick Street [Soho]that are expensive. I worked with Première Vision where there are six halls – tailoring, seduction, technology, sportswear: it caters for everyone. Most of my fabrics are French and Italian and famous for their impeccable standards. This sets me apart from competitors like Temperley.


Who would be your ideal woman to dress?

I love Keira Knightly! I think she is so classic but has that edge because she is so young and elegant. She adopts two worlds – she can go for something casual to something glamourous in an instant – she’s a real chameleon.

Do you think the women in your life have influenced your desire to create beautiful, modern dresses?

Well, I love dressing a woman who is comfortable in her body but at the same time who isn’t shy of showing it off at the right place and at the right time. In terms of my family, my grandmother died when my mother was sixteen and was left to look after her sister. My mother has worked hard all her life so I’ve seen how strong and how resilient to life she is. I think that reflects in my designs. I want to dress women who reflect those values.

If you had to chose a signature item, what would that be?

For me, I would say the pleats are my signature. I haven’t seen anyone do pleats like that. It is all about the manual labour and the intensive prep work.

Would you ever break out to accessories?

Perhaps later on. The thing is at the beginning you have to focus on what you are good at. You need to focus on what your unique selling point and start branching out after – you don’t want to be jack of all trades. You’ll get that trust later on. For example, on the course [at Westminster university] there were lots of girls wanting to do fashion. This one girl wanted to mix men’s tailoring with street-wear womenswear and I am thinking – they are completely different, the two can’t be combined together! It is important to specialise and move forward in one area at first.

Would you ever be interested in applying your skills to menswear?

It doesn’t really interest me, no. I would feel restricted working solely with menswear because everything is too particular and too precise. Womenswear is fluid and changes all the time.

Can you explain to me your most disappointing and exciting moment of being a fashion designer so far?

Two years ago I planned to start out my own company with a friend. On the day we were going to get our investment, she let me down. That was during a time when everything was difficult so I would say that was my biggest disappointment. But I believe that everything happens for a reason and it made me push even more without necessarily relying on other people.

An exciting moment however…looking back, it must have been during my final year [at university] in front of the panel of judges (including the editor from Elle) where we had to show seven pieces of our collection that we wanted to appear on the graduate catwalk show (they don’t pick all final year students!) I was accepted on this show and at the end only three out of seventeen of us got press (I was on of the three!) So I got a fantastic comments from the Evening Standard. Also, seeing a celebrity [actress Jodie Whittaker] wearing your clothes is very exciting.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young designers?

I think it is so important to have hunger and determination. A friend of mine (who also models for my clothes) has that hunger – we push each other. I believe in hard work. I think you have to follow your heart and follow what makes you happy. At the end of the day it is your life and you have to stick with that life. If you are passionate about something, go for it and persevere! It will pay off.







Evening Standard press:

“One of the most commercial collections among the graduates came from Bao Ta who showed a keen attention to detail with much intricate pleating.”



“I think you have to follow your heart and follow what makes you happy. At the end of the day it is your life and you have to stick with that life”


Keep an eye on Bao Ta’s exciting progress via his website here and follow him here on Twitter: @baotaLondon.



10 Top Stories – Quick 2014 Round-Up


1) Hair cut and a telling off here

2) Eavesdropping, Spanish Steps Style here

3) Overheard amusing conversation on the London tube here

4) 10 reasons you know you live with an Italian here

5) Magazine moment and inspiration ladies here

6) The date, nutella-dilemma and ivy embellished bars here 

aka “Why American boy when you are in Italia?

7) Jazz moment: here

8) Paris, Paris, Paris

9) New years resolutions of 2014 – being flawless isn’t always necessary or all that exciting here

10) Roman Insults, Yoga & a Revelation here


Wintry Snippets of Home/English Countryside – Nostalgic Already

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Letter Press Gold Leaf


Gold Leaf Christmas Cards


Why Love Actually Is Actually The Best Christmas Film

Billed as the “ultimate romantic comedy”, Love Actually is one of the films we watch intentionally or unintentionally with popcorn/mulled wine/hot chocolate around Christmas. At the very least it will be on in the background once this festive season, I bet my baubles.

Ponderings/reasons we love it…

  • We’ve all experienced that opening airport moment where the feeling of joy/sadness/belonging soars above and beyond most normal moment
  • Prompts you to wonder, a) what is Martine McCutcheon up to now?
  • b) how the little lovesick boy got so tall and how he ended up on Game of Thrones?
  • A moping Liam Neeson in cosy, long, sleeve GAP tops
  • Why does Darcy get cheated on by a fluey, half-naked wife-vixen?
  • Where do Emma Thompson & Liam Neeson find those beautiful, homely, food and flower-filled London homes?
  • Colin Firth makes running away from reality/your problems to a foreign country OK
  • When Colin Firth is in France and the lady who welcomes him says:

“She cannot speak French, just like you” – Erasmus Flashback

  • Haven’t we all accidentally done the awkward double-palm, grin wave that Hugh Grant bestows upon inconvenient colleague crush Martine in an effort to flirt?
  • When Liam Neeson casually meets Claudia Schiffer in the school corridor after the Nativity play – make mental note to be yummy mummy



Vogue Night Out

Here are some pictures from the Vogue Night Out I attended recently.

Serene ballet dancers performed sequences in gleaming shop windows; a glamorous string quartet embellished with handsome waiters clutching trays of fluorescent Aperol Spritz, beckoning you in.

Bursts of white flowers placed as gorgeous centrepieces, like elegant frothy explosions in the middle of the floor, cherry-flavoured vodka poured silkily into pristine cocktail glasses…











5 Must-Read Books!

If you haven’t already devoured them…

I love the weight of a new book in my hand and the scent of fresh pages. I love the airy stillness of a bookshop, and the shiny new covers of bestsellers or old classics on tables near the front door. People are respectful in bookshops, delicate as they take the book from the shelf and place it away. People don’t bombard you like in every other shop in the world…

‘Hiya what can I get you everything alright let me know if you need anything,’

then a moment later:

‘Hiya what can I get you everything alright let me know if you need anything,’

(Ok I know they have to.)

But we are losing this culture, and according to statistics only a measley third of all consumers buy their books in bookshops, the rest online. Bookshops are being disastrously plucked from the high street, and I think it is quite sad, for I know the next time I go back to my local town up North my childhood  bookshop may be replaced with a grotesque, gleaming pile of dirty hair-bobbles, socks and polyryrinethyroestrine lounge trousers, (aka, Primark.)

So here’s to a cosy Christmas with some recommendations:

1) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

International bestselling romantic comedy, it is warm-hearted where the protagonist encourages us to see the funny side of our own often incomprehensible behaviour.

2) Stoner by John Edward Williams

This vintage classic has been dubbed as ‘the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of.’ Stoner has been described as ‘anti-Gatsby.’ Its prose is austere, the book perfectly constructed and is essentially a mesmerising account of one man’s failure. It is dusty with sadness but will weigh on your mind long after you’ve finished it.

3) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This is a fabulous tome, vividly weaved together and at times unbearably moving. The intricate details picked up by the narrator will resonate within the reader, the protagonist wandering into your mind and tugging at your soul.

4) Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Ok, a little more of a summer than winter read but all the more reason! Dripping with a Great Gatsby-esque glamour, there is murder, sex and mystery in 1950’s New England. Magnetically delivered through the eyes of five characters.

5) Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood

The tempestuous genius that is Ernest Hemingway had four wives. This novel portrays their lives, enticing, mysterious and often heart-wrenching. We are drawn behind the curtain of his lives and the absurdity of the fact that Ernest could not help proposing to his mistresses.

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Christmas Wish List: Chanel, Les Beiges


You might recognise adverts of this small investment featuring the tanned, glossed human race-horse Gisele.

I wasn’t sure at first but now I love it: it is basically an illuminating and magically glow-enhancing powder. Admittedly in some lights it looks like you’ve swept invisible air on your face but all in all it’s a special, elegant delight.


The rather suggestively dubbed ‘Pornstar Martini’


– Prosecco (little buddy in the shot glass)
– Passion fruit
– Gin
– ‘Penash’

They may look far too summery and deceiving in this droning winter, but once you’ve escaped the pulse of commuterdom (whether in New York, London or Paris) they are a lovely if unoriginal choice.

So step down mulled wine and soggy cinnamon sticks (that just get in the way).

As Shakespeare the very man himself famously said:

It is a known thing that a martini maketh merriment

How To Save A Life – You Heard Me

“Imagine yourself strolling by the River Tiber…”

There is a moment in every person’s life when they save the life of another. That time came somewhat prematurely for me one morning whilst living in Rome. You’d think dogs were the easy part of the whole au-pairing deal but you may want to think again.

Imagine yourself strolling by the River Tiber, which chases its way through the city. The late September air is cool and the colours are spicy in the morning, an early sun pouring like honey over the water. It is a pretty abandoned and quiet place down by the river. If it wasn’t for the light and peace it is possibly Rome’s ugliest secret. Additionally, the long and looming Tiber is apparently rat and chemical-infested.

I know.

However, I might mention at night it is a glowing beacon of romance: lovers stroll down the bicycle path lanes, weaved into each other’s arms. It is a place to fall in love, fall out of love, or in my case, fall in the river.

It all happened incredibly fast, as horrific moments do. One minute the dog and I are walking companions. The next, the lead had whipped out of my hand and I spotted a golden head bobbing in the middle of the spinning, grey current. The drowning thing was being relentlessly pushed down stream. I bolted parallel to the river, bumping into a balding, old man. The dog disappeared from view, I asked him if he had seen a floating dog and he said something about the presence of rats creating an underworld of disease on the riverbed.

“The beauty of Rome was peeling away”

Thanking him for his useless response, I sprinted further, noticing buildings around me become more gritty and skeletal. The beauty of Rome was peeling away. As would, I thought, the familial affection the family had for me when I returned with a soaking, dead dog in my arms.

“It all happened incredibly fast, as horrific moments do”

After what felt like a hundred years, I caught sight of the helpless animal, now a yellow smudge in the water. I clambered down the banking of the river and fought down through the steep shrubbery to come level with her. Far down from the pedestrian path, I grated away my voice box screaming her name and, like some bizarre force guiding her over, she reached me.

At that point, I was balancing on a small, godforsaken stretch of ground, slippery from damp. Grabbing the dog as she crawled towards me, I remember laughing, digging my nails into her damp fur in anger, utterly exhausted. The foolish creature looked at me, ears pitched forwards, large brown eyes incredibly soft.
It took a few minutes to realize that not only was I several feet from dry land, but apart from the stupid, sodden dog and gushing river, I was completely alone.

Perhaps night would fall and someone, a week later, would come across a white, frozen corpse with a dead dog clasped in her arms.

My only choice was to yell repeatedly “C’è qualcuno?-Is there anyone there?” at the top of my voice, until some unsuspecting stranger came to rescue me.

Quite to my delight, this unsuspecting stranger came in the form of a rather handsome student who was crossing the bridges. An unshaved, well-dressed figure stared down and gave me a careful and puzzling wave. After seeing the dog collapsed at my side, I think he realized the situation and not that I was just chilling out down there. He waved a phone in my direction and, still a little uncertain as to his heroic plans, I acknowledged him and waited. We talked a bit actually and were we face to face, and I a little less blackened with mud and resembling Mowgli from The Jungle Book, I may have been in the state of mind to flirt – visions of chilled wine in a hazy piazza.

 “Were we face to face, and I a little less… .resembling Mowgli from The Jungle Book, I may have been in the state of mind to flirt – visions of chilled wine in a hazy piazza…”

Fast forward twenty minutes, I heard an “Oi!” coming from the river. A large dinghy full of large, bearded men was bobbing towards me. I waved to make sure they absolutely saw me and didn’t diverge off towards other potentially marooned dog walkers. Before I knew it, I was beside them, dog in tow and grateful that my chiseled saviour had been intelligent enough to call the fire-brigade.
We lumbered off the dinghy at a remote building and following behind I wondered whether to hug them? Gather them round the family’s dining table so we could all celebrate the rescue with prosecco and pizza? Honestly though, I wanted to mutter a quick thanks and leave.
The dog and I were treated to a rather harsh (I thought) spray down with a hose (wasn’t I soaking and humiliated enough?) They thought I had, in my insanity, jumped into Rat River. To top it all off, rather cruelly, I was made to trundle the couple of miles home, damp and weary.

 “Rather cruelly, I was made to trundle the couple of miles home, damp and weary…”

The following morning, the children’s father called me into the kitchen waving several newspapers, telling me about a girl leaping in the Tiber to save her Labrador. With the details of my name and age wrong though, it could have been anybody.