By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
Actually, Quoc Nguyen doesn’t think his job is that glamorous, even though his designs are popular and featured throughout the Urban Outfitters line. (You can refer to the photo of the beautiful dress!)
Quoc, (also known as “Larry”) described his history and his design process with the Northwest Asian Weekly.
NWAW: What does your role entail? It seems as if it would be glamorous.
Quoc: It’s not that glamorous except for traveling to Asia and India, which I love. I am the Creative Technical Design Director. My role is less hands on with the product these days, which I miss, but I can still can have an effect through my teams. What we do is work with the design team to create the designer’s fit and silhouette vision. On top of this, I work more closely with the design team in the pre-development stage as they are first designing the styles and helping them on new techniques that make our clothes more special. They call them “Quoc mocks” and currently one of them is a top-10 seller for the Urban Outfitters (UO) brand. I’m involved in all of the company brands: (Anthropologie, Free People, UO) and specifically to the soft wovens and knit categories.
NWAW: How long have you been working for Urban Outfitters and how did you start out?
Quoc: I’ve been with UO INC for 11 years now…I can’t believe I’ve been in one place for this long. The product we create kept me here and I can’t see myself anywhere else. Sure, there are rough days that make me want to run, but there is a super-creative environment and entrepreneurial sense at this company that keeps me from leaving. I started out as a Tech Designer for Free People dresses, blouses, and skirts.
NWAW: What is your typical day like now at work?
Quoc: There is never a typical day at work! Our clothes are very trend-driven and these change constantly, so I never know what the day holds for me…I guess that’s good since I hate complacency. This is an ever-evolving company and I think that is the reason for its success.
NWAW: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where were you raised, what was your childhood like?
Quoc: I’m an immigrant of Vietnam in 1975. My family was actually on the last flight out when the airport was bombed. We went to Kansas City, MO when we arrived & with nothing. We were sponsored by a church that helped get us on our feet without the need for welfare. I really admire and appreciate my parents for their bravery to leave everything they knew to come here in hopes of a better life for them and their children. Their gamble paid off – every single one of my siblings (all six) each became successful in their chosen careers. I would say I am too!
I studied fashion design at the University of North Texas and spent much of those years as a club kid. This really allowed me to experiment with my fashion ideas since that scene was all about outrageous outfits and that was what I loved. I loved all things weird and avant garde…still do. However, my world is much more about commerciality these days.
NWAW: Did you always want to be in the fashion world? Did you know this would be your future career? What was the trigger to start you on your career?
Quoc: Yes, I have always wanted to be in the fashion world. I loved fashion as a kid & once I reached high school that’s all I could think about. I watched “Style with Elsa Klensh” & Fashion TV religiously. When Jean Paul Gaultier came onto the scene at that time, he completely ignited my burning desire further. His creations was humorous, irreverent & sculptural – it was unlike anything I had seen. I was also taking lots of art classes in high school & my favorites were my sculpture classes & since fashion is essentially wearable sculptures, I found my calling.
NWAW: What is the most rewarding aspect about your job? What are you the most proud of? What is the most annoying/disappointing aspect?
Quoc: The product that I work on is the most rewarding part about my job. Seeing how much people love our clothes or even aspire to be like gives me a lot of pride. I worked for various brands in Dallas and was never proud to say I had a hand in developing the clothes. I remember when I first started working with UO I constantly saw the things I worked on used for the photo shoots of America’s Next Top Model. It’s also great when you see cool celebrities like Zooey Deschanel wearing our things.
NWAW: Any favorite work-related anecdotes?
Quoc: One of the things that always makes me laugh is when a number of us HATE a style and it ends up being a best-seller. Even more funny is when that said hated style gets reincarnated into a different style for several seasons. (end)
Peggy Chapman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.