Interview With Fashion Designer Bao Ta

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

 

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“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.

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10 Top Stories – Quick 2014 Round-Up

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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

 

Magazine Moment, Prosecco & Inspirational Ladies

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I’m sure there was once a point to human handbag-shelf and tottering bottle of hair-spray Olivia Palermo, but I’ve forgotten it. The reason I bring her up is because I ran into her website the other day and then ran away for fear of turning into a pink Furbee embellished with diamanté bits and oversized sunglasses.

“I ran into her website the other day and then ran away for fear of turning into a pink Furbee embellished with diamanté bits and oversized sunglasses…”

What I am happy about is the new Porter magazine which I found on a colourful mag vendor in Campo de’ Fiori the other day. Don’t get me wrong, Vogue UK and Italia is still up there with top magazine totty, but I was curious how yet another magazine could be brought to life, successfully.

Turns out, the editor Lucy Yeomans has a point. She is an example of magazine goddess-ism, swanning her way from editor-in-chief of UK’s Harpers Bazaar to the luxury online fashion website of Net-A-Porter. Before you ask, yes her big, blond hair is bouncing with creative originality and tons of ways to present fashion, art and design to the consumer and culture hungry audience. More significantly, she knows how to merge commerce with content. This will be the “fashion magazine of the future.” I hear your cry: don’t they all bloody say that?

“Before you ask, yes her big, blond hair is bouncing with creative originality and tons of ways to present fashion, art and design to the consumer and culture hungry audience…”

As an avid reader of magazines (I love the scent of a fresh publication, the new season’s adverts and where possible, interviews of the female power forces behind loud industry brands,) surely it must be hard to push yet another one into the market. Giving Lucy Yeomans the benefit of the doubt, her editor’s letter already has more substance than some of the existing fashion comments that drip across the already limited pages filled with the written word.

As you can imagine – adverts still breed adverts and so it is basically the same as every other sodding mag you know. BUT it also aims to offer “a unique global curation of all the most beautiful and interesting things in the world…” whether you want to know about a book, a trip of a lifetime or a magnificent art-show. It’s not all skirts, people!

In a recent interview, Yeomans states that the “traditional publishing world has so many boundaries…but the internet changes that completely.” In other words the internet allows for reaching a vast global audience. Being a reader and consumer it is vital not to waste time on rather flat, poncy websites that are ultimately tools of self-promotion (sorry Palermo) but to focus on something that brings inspiration on top of the flat and poncy stuff.

The thing is, fashion is a living and breathing thing and I admire Lucy Yeomans for leaving the Ferrero Rocher scented and Champagne gilded Harper’s Bazaar to launch Porter into our hands.

Essentially, she’s celebrating a bouquet of “incredible women’s stories and empowered women to be everything they dreamed of.” See, that’s nice, isn’t it?

References
http://www.net-a-porter.com/portermagazine
http://www.businessoffashion.com
http://www.oliviapalermo.com

“Essentially, she’s celebrating a bouquet of ‘incredible women’s stories and empowered women to be everything they dreamed of.’ See, that’s nice, isn’t it?”

Gucci As You’ve Never Seen Him Before

( Image courtesy of: http://www.sociallyvogue.com/guccio-gucci.html ) ( http://www.gucci.com/cn-en/home ) “We know an awful lot about the clothes, pearly yachts, luxury cheekbones and vague, glazed beauty that clings to the House of Gucci – but what about the gentleman himself?” I wanted … Continue reading

The Style Section

After some winks and nudges, I have been asked to provide a The Signorina: STYLE section – to document Wish Lists and a Comment area on the ever-evolving and ever-fascinating world of Fashion.

Flying Back To Italy Today!

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It’s been a long and lovely holiday at home in London, but the time has come to head back to Italy to continue work. (I use the term work loosely of course, as working for the Italian family is proving to be a wonderful experience.)

I should mention, I don’t know how long yet I will be doing it for – as long as Italy will have me! There is certainly a whole wave of things I’ve yet to do and people I’ve yet to meet, dates yet to have. (I’ve been rather shy and slow in that department! I know, grow up!)

What with children, ice cream errands and pesto dilemmas on the one hand, I feel there is so much glamorous sunlit ground I’m still yet to cover on the other hand.

Bobbi Brown Beauty

Bobbi Brown Beauty

Bobbi Brown Lipgloss + When To Wear It?

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This was a treat before I came to Rome actually. Rather than splashing out on lots of new clothes – I decided to buy a new lip gloss. (Call me lavish). The Bobbi Brown pink raspberry kind.

You know what I love about lip gloss? Or indeed any lip product? It is because you can apply it anywhere and it gives you an instant pick-me-up, or whatever it is you want without hobbling on high heels or sporting an expensive item of clothing that hugs in places I shouldn’t.

Some situations I recommend wearing this:

  • An interview moment

The tube is packed and gross, sweaty armpits and angry frowns leaning against unmentionable parts of your body. You leave the tube with a fluster and flurry. Caked in stress and dirt from other people’s morning. You can’t find your Oyster card. You are thrown against the barrier whilst people show off who can. You find it, hurrah! A familiar purple tube taps your finger. You leave the station and the sunlight bathes your face. You add a dab of Pink Raspberry and for a moment you feel slightly better about parading into an unfamiliar office with venomous suits offering you water and sharpening their fangs.

 

  • An airport moment

It’s the most early in the morning it has ever been. You are swimming with sleep, and carrying seven suitcases. Your passport is hiding in one of them. You haven’t had breakfast, you are alone and late. Lady loudspeaker in the airport is catapolting instructions and indications. The airport is chaotic – are you in the right one? Double check ticket, ticket says ‘yes you are.’ Gate is not up, thank the Lord. Cafe’ sign next to screen with gates. You order a coffee and offload luggage. You sit and think and remember how excited you are about where you are going. You enjoy coffee, attractive waiter is staring at you even though you feel like an orc. Finish coffee, get a bit of Bobbi out, apply and leave for flight.

 

Find out more here!

Beauty

So after some requests I’ve been asked to create a The Signorina: Beauty section. This is for two reasons:

1) When living in Rome, I tend to pick up ideas moreso than when at home in London and it is nice to have a place to document /share them

2) The mother who I live with, called Elena, works in fashion (!) and SO I have immediate inside knowledge, absorbing it automatically (I like to think!) as I walk through the lovely apartment

Underwear Underworld, Part 1: You Know You Love It… Victoria’s Secret

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Image curtesy of this lovely lady’s blog: http://www.girlscene.nl/blog/11730/_mijn_top_10_favoriete_winkels_in_het_buitenland 

PART 1:

I love beautiful underwear, I do. However I wanted to share my recent experience at the boutique boudoir that is Victoria’s Secret. Another underwear journey, although this time the experience was wholly different. As you might have guessed, I came back home to England for Christmas. and an eager friend who has just broken up with her boyfriend, defiantly dragged me round the Victoria’s Secret sales.

“an eager friend who has just broken up with her boyfriend, defiantly dragged me round the Victoria’s Secret sales”

In short, it is a black and purple, plastic and glitter explosion shoved together inside a frilly, seduction-scented box, layered carefully with the skin of a thousand, female preying mantis. The underwear is unusually created by sexy, little elves, covered in lip gloss who live on coconut water and bronze eye shadow.  By contrast to the howling winds and driving rain outside during this particularly wild, British winter, this shop is a palacial, safe haven.  You cannot skid on the wet entrance to Victoria’s Secret for you will be shot on sight– and yet women insist on wearing dagger-like stiletto’s. I am sure it is part of the internal training process.

“a black and purple, plastic and glitter explosion shoved together inside a frilly, seduction-scented box, layered carefully with the skin of a thousand, female preying mantis… unusually created by sexy, little elves, covered in lip gloss who live on coconut water and bronze eye shadow”

My friend abandoned me. I did not know whether I was allowed to touch certain puff balls of silk, let alone try them on. The bras seem to prop themselves up by the bulky cup, poised to greedily jump on your boobs. I clutch my chest protectively. Despite all this, the bras are gorgeous, expensive, but nice. Eventually, I found a couple I thought were fine so I got measured.

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Lexington Armory, New York, America - 07 Nov 2012

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“I did not know whether I was allowed to touch certain puff balls of silk, let alone try them on. The bras seem to prop themselves up by the bulky cup, poised to greedily jump on your boobs”

Before I’d even reached the changing room, (that looked like a suspended selection of Caeser’s silken nightrobes) I was pulled over by very attentive service. We need details. Lining up they take your name down on a list – as if I was queuing up to get into a prestigious club. Is this your first time? How many would you like to try? So-and-so will assist you and wait outside in case you need any help – here is the bell (points at glittery, golden bell).

Good gracious.

I felt as if I was bobbing outside a club where instead of steamy bottles of Vodka lining the shelves in a shiny, expensive fashion, its bras. Millions and millions of bras. Looking at me. And knickers. It’s really a wonder the bras aren’t served up on a clean, black tray, glistening with unicorn spit, or cooled in buckets with ice shaven from igloos of eskimo princesses.

“It’s really a wonder the bras aren’t served up on a clean, black tray, glistening with unicorn spit, or cooled in buckets with ice shaven from igloos of eskimo princesses”

I decided I wanted to get measured and apparently I was not the size I thought I was. (How off can you be?) I was informed to get measured every six months. Six months, that’s the amount of times one goes to the dentist. Come on though, as long as you clean your teeth, you’re doing nothing wrong. But your boobs – can’t the just look after themselves? And really how often do they change size and shape? One morning will I look down, 18 months after my last measurement and see teabag-like-bra covering my nipples because of how big they’ve gotten? Afterwards, a trusty card was thrust into my hand – much like the stamp a bouncer gives you at a club telling you that you can come back.

“I was informed to get measured every six months. Six months, that’s the amount of times one goes to the dentist. Come on though, as long as you clean your teeth, you’re doing nothing wrong. But your boobs – can’t the just look after themselves? And really how often do they change size and shape?”