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.



Nutella Hot Chocolate


 Just climbed a frosty mountain? Braved the weather in wellies and a hat damp from the Christmas Day walk yesterday in an effort to feel hungry again? Perching by the fire with a frozen nose?


Nutella hot chocolate is the thing to make yourself/loved ones this Christmas, (if you haven’t already dissolved into a champagne & brandy soaked sugar cube yet that is.)


It is sweet, indulgent and cosy – so that is 3 hearty yes’s from us.


You literally just need milk, a big dollop of Nutella (per person) and something hot in which to bubble it all up together.


What are you still doing sitting there?


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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Eavesdropping, Spanish Steps Style

Busy cafe near Piazza di Spagna (named after the Embassy of Spain). Picture high palms and warm yellow, ochre and rust houses that proudly gaze over the steps. The steps were actually a gift from the French King Louise XV to Rome (should probably be called the French steps in the King’s honour but the Spanish Embassy got there in the nick of time.)

I had time to kill before picking up the piccola Teresa from school and settled in the Piazza with my book and a cappuccino (standard.)

I couldn’t help but notice a bouncy conversation three men in shiny suits on the table next to me started bellowing. Here is a rough translation of their brisk conversation:

Man 1, 2 and 3, let’s call them Riccardo, Luigi and Leonardo.

Riccardo: Ciao! Apologies for the delay – I got caught on a call

Luigi: That’s no problem – I just called you actually

Riccardo: Ah! was on the other line –

Luigi: Yes I gathered, no problem.

Riccardo: And Leonardo?

Luigi: He just called, he’s on his way

Riccardo: Great – did you read the email I sent you this morning?

Luigi: Haven’t had a chance yet

Riccardo: Ah I see – I was going to call after you’d read it to see what you thought before we met this morning

Luigi: I’ll read it after this meeting if that is alright, then I’ll let you know?

Riccardo: That is a good idea – here is Leonardo now

Leonardo: Ecco mi! Here I am!

Riccardo: Ciao!

Luigi: Ciao!

Leonardo: Tutto bene? Everything ok?

Luigi: Everything is fine

Riccardo: Glad you could make it

Leonardo: What a great sun today!

Luigi: Are you going back to your parents this weekend?

Leonardo: That is the plan! If I can get out of that meeting at 4pm. Come to think of it, I could attend via conference call. Or can catch up with the discussion after

Riccardo: We could go though now what we are going to propose?

Luigi: Now?

Riccardo: Why not? We are all hear apart from Filippo but he will be on the call later

Leonardo: I thought we intended to discuss the items for next week’s press release?

Luigi: I agree – that is more urgent

Riccardo gets up: Some caffe’ first guys?

Leonardo: Please – Let me offer you both one

Riccardo: So kind! Thank you

Luigi: I will have a caffe ristretto with pleasure, thanks

Folders shuffled, pens clicked, blackberrys on the table, I-Phone’s buzzing, Luigi answers and speaks for a moment. He frowns and leaves the table. After a moment or so, he returns, despondent 

Luigi: It is with great regret I think I must leave – it appears Mario has had a run in with the Profilo clients

Riccardo: What a clown! He should be able to manage that account

Luigi: I don’t trust the man sometimes

Leonardo returns.

Leonardo: Everything alright?

Luigi: Its the Banca Profilo clients – they have some problems [drinks his coffee with a flick of his wrist]. Thank you for that

Leonardo: My pleasure

Luigi: I don’t know what to do – I think it might be best if we get together in a few days. I am sorry, guys

Riccardo: We might have no choice [drinks coffee and lights a cigarette]

Leonardo: I may be away at the end of this week and early next – for a long weekend

Luigi: Ah I see

Riccardo: We could simplifly the situation and do this by a conference call?

Luigi: Not a bad idea

Leonardo: That’s settled then

Riccardo: I can email across the details

Luigi: Ok, perfect. Get in touch if you need anything in the meantime

Riccardo: Let’s get in touch later today then

Leonardo: Thanks guys, see you soon!

Riccardo: I’ll be in touch later today

Luigi: See you next time!

Business meeting adjourned. Five minutes of chair scraping, cigarette exchanging and texting.

I went back to my book, worried that after all that, nothing much was achieved but confused as to the original aim of said meeting. (I can hear you say, was it my business at all? Essentially not, no but one can’t help but overhear – besides how else can one successfully pick up the language?)

June Joys & Cappuccino Confrontation

First of all, apologies for the recent silence – dilemmas summoned me homeward bound and so I’ve been absent from the keyboard. I’m back now and, if I may say so myself, in full force. Friday morning, I took Teresa … Continue reading

The Date, Nutella-Dilemma & Ivy-Embellished Bars

You are probably wondering (nosy) what happened to Mr American Pilot who I met the other day and I’ve been meaning to describe the date. This was a Saturday a few weeks ago now and what with Paris and the demands of au-pair life I’ve not written anything yet. Here we are then:

“I’m still getting used to the joy of real, homemade fresh pesto and the children turn up their noses as if it’s bloody beans on toast – ungrateful if you ask me…”

The hardest part of the date was actually leaving the house as the children decided that they didn’t want delicious fresh pesto pasta which is a) quick and easy b) quick and easy especially as I needed to get ready and go out for a date later. Seriously, I am still getting used to the joy of real, homemade fresh pesto and the children turn up their noses as if it’s bloody beans on toast – ungrateful if you ask me.

Frilly fusilli with pesto was swiftly served and greedily eaten despite the fuss and the children’s parents returned later than planned meaning I had about twelve minutes to make myself look vaguely respectable for my first date in a LONG time.

When was my last one? Of course I’m not telling you.


“I had about twelve minutes to make myself look vaguely respectable for my first date in a LONG time”

As you can imagine I was really nervous, but didn’t think it appropriate to have a small glass of wine over dinner as the children were on the juice (why do I never just think of myself?) Of course as soon as I put a SMALL bit of make up on Tesesa bounded over to me in the bathroom and demanded to know where I was going. I lied (I don’t know why I lied but she was annoying me) and said I was seeing friends from my language school to plan for the upcoming trip to Paris (see recent photos). That threw her off the scent so I manged to pull on my All Saints puffy, black jacket over my jeans and silky top and close the door gently behind me once I heard the father turn on the TV.
Note to self – when getting date-ready, apply make-up en-route to said-date, for fear of incessant interrogation in shape of bouncy-blond-Italian-bambina. Seriously – children are SO nosy. If I was that nosy as a wee girl I would have earned myself a flick or two on the nose.

“Seriously – children are SO nosy. If I was that nosy as a wee girl I would have earned myself a flick or two on the nose”

Anyway, I was late with half-face full of make up and pesto hair. I think what needs to apply hear is ‘what happens at work, stays at work.’ The whole ‘leave your troubles at the door scenario’ and not worry about anything. By that point I’m reluctant to say I wished I was only going to meet my friends.

Anyway, as agreed, Mr Pilot was waiting by the monument in Campo de’ Fiori and was looking dashing and taller than I remember in a light blue shirt and jeans. It was a warmish night and my coat was too heavy, the piazza starting to stir with the hustle and bustle of loud locals merging with quiet tourists drinking in the bars scattered outside. My Pilot had one of those very, white American smiles and probably twenty-twenty vision (a pilot-must-have – as you can see I did my research for this date.)

“Mr Pilot was waiting by the monument in Campo de’ Fiori and was looking dashing and taller than I remember in a light blue shirt and jeans”

I’d quite forgotten how American he was in the sense that he had a loud, Southern drawl that transferred to his vaguely-learnt Italian. So the foreign words he’d learnt were even more stretched out and funny sounding. My mind was going a bit silly so instead of thinking about that strangeness I decided it would be better for both if I listen to what he was saying. We had Prosecco, (good choice) and then another glass (they were quite small) and he told me all about why he was in Rome and his early experiences as a pilot. (Turns out he is a bit older than I thought but I decided not to point that out.)

I told him about what I was doing in Rome and felt quite open to talking about the disastrous homesickness of my earlier days here, the search for actual friends and the genuine relief when things in my life started to fall into place and I didn’t constantly Skype family and mope like a big girl’s blouse.

We left the piazza and he decided he wanted a Crepe. I thought two thoughts:

1) “I definitely want a Crepe because I am hungry and he will probably offer it to me”

2) “I am never allowed to eat Nutella in public ever because I get it all over my face. Friends and family have investigated why it goes quite so all over the place but after numerous findings and detailed analysis no ultimate nor successful conclusions were drawn.”


To avoid Nutella-over-face dilemma, I suggested we wonder into the Baroque Piazza Navona as it is beautiful and quiet at night. Then I worried he thought I might be cornering him but at that point I decided my brain needed to just shut up. We wondered amongst the marble benches and majestic Bernini sculptures (Fountains of the Rivers is one of them) and laughed at a man sitting on a bench with an icecream in one hand and an impatient dog in the other.

“To avoid Nutella-over-face dilemma, I suggested we wonder into the Baroque Piazza Navona as it is beautiful and quiet at night…”

Behind the piazza was a hidden bar with the entrance disguised in draping green Ivy like an emerald cloak.

“Table for two please” we gestured and ordered a colourful cocktail each. There was even live guitar music! By this point I was relaxed and enjoying the sophisticated company of the Pilot. He was charming and funny and to be honest, I liked very much speaking in my mother-tongue English finally. The conversation flowed perfectly and I felt a little disappointed when he said he couldn’t stay too late as he had to travel the following morning. He said he would like to see me again and asked if he could walk me home. I said it wasn’t necessary (I don’t know why as it definitely was – I blame brain that was in sleep-mode as had told it earlier to shut up.) So outside the bar amongst the cobbles, floppy ivy and acoustic guitar music he gave me a light kiss and said “I’ll be in touch,” as in the films. I forgot to use any words and so waved, then wondered home.

When I arrived back in the apartment, Elena (the mother) was in the sitting room reading a magazine and drinking herbal tea. She asked where I had been and after I explained all she said was:

“Why American boy when you are in Italia?”

She had a point.

Le Petit Parisien, Montmartre, Paris (Did You Guess?)

Le Petit Parisien, Montmartre, Paris (Did You Guess?)

Scenes From Paris in Spring

This gallery contains 6 photos.

A View From The Bridge

A View From The Bridge

Lovers of Ile-de-France – Pont de l’Archeveche

Lovers of Ile-de-France – Pont de l’Archeveche

Of course this type of thing is in Paris! What surprised me is that almost everything you could put a padlock on, has a padlock on it. I’m serious – a twist of metal, a free rung, a handle in … Continue reading