Name: Kai Nguyen
Swank: Designer/creator of LUMIÉRES
In this day and age, urban clothing brands seem to be more popular and creative than ever, flooding social media timelines with funky and sometimes outrageous images, hoping to make a lasting impression on the fickle stylistas in the fashion world. However, this week’s Swanker lets his work speak for itself. Last year, Kai Nguyen—the 18-year-old Vietnam native and New York City transplant—created LUMIÉRES, a brand that is on the rise and never ceases to remind the world that “He who is brave is free.” See what Kai has to say about the origin of his passion for fashion, his collaboration with the ill producer WONDAGURL, and where he hopes his creation will take him in the forthcoming years.
Mass Appeal: What’s the meaning behind the name LUMIÈRES?
Kai Nguyen: LUMIÈRES means “lights” or “enlightenment” in French, depending on how it’s used. I created LUMIÈRES because I want it to be the light that guides me through my journey as a designer. Yes, I know it sounds cliché.
MA: How did you get into designing at such a young age?
KN: I’ve always loved clothes. Growing up in Vietnam I didn’t have much: I used to wear my Dr. Martens and Nikes all the time. Back then my mom was a sewing contractor, so I learned some techniques from her, but after coming to the U.S., I was exposed to the culture, resources, and much more opportunity. Oh, how I thought hoodies were the coolest things ever made when I came to America [Laughs]. Since it was always hot in Vietnam, we didn’t need them, and I had only seen them in Manga or movies!
MA: Who are your inspirations inside and out the fashion world?
KN: That’s a hard question. I can’t pinpoint anyone specifically.
MA: What’s your vision with the brand?
KN: I have a lot of visions when it comes to the brand. First and foremost, I’d like to see LUMIÈRES thrive. I want it to affect the culture in the most positive way and want the clothes to become a culture of its own. I’d love to become a leader in the fashion world one day, with people that I look up to wearing and my garments.
MA: Recently, there has been an influx of urbanwear brands in the fashion industry. What sets LUMIÈRES apart from the rest?
KN: I believe that I design with a new style that’s different from popular trends you see today. I believe that our lookbook is one of the best in the industry, especially for a beginner.
MA: What are you currently working on?
KN: I can’t say much, but I’m working on rebranding LUMIÈRES.
KN: It was so cool actually, WONDAGURL is very talented. I fell in love with her work when I first heard her beat on “Uptown“ by Travi$ Scott. I contacted her right away and she agreed to work with me. I sent her the design, told her the concept, and she just work her magic from there.
KN: I love skulls and have been obsessed with and fascinated by them since I was a kid. The skull represents the “never-back-down” attitude that’s present during futbol (soccer) matches.
MA: Who do you wish to see rocking your clothes by the end of this year?
KN: Oh, there are so many people, but honestly, I would be happy to see any body and everybody wearing my clothes. I appreciate any supporter of the brand because every customer is actively helping me build a brighter future for the brand and myself. I remember the first time I went to SoHo with my friends Glyn Brown and Joo Henderson, some random guy came up to me wearing one of my designs and simply said, “Good job.” It was such a great feeling.
MA: For the summer season, what are three articles of clothing everyone should have in their wardrobe?
KN: Keep it simple: some nice denim, a white tee, and Chelsea boots.
MA: What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome with the brand?
KN: Probably the funding to get everything going, and then of course the negativity I received from everybody because of my age and being somebody unknown.
MA: Any words of advice for other young, aspiring fashion designers?
KN: Create your own lane and stay in it!
MA: Where do you wish to see yourself in five years?
KN: On top, of course.
Hit Djali up on Instagram (@djalibc) if you think you’ve got swank!