Unruly in Uniform: Bang Nguyen Transcends


Bang Nguyen is taking on Austin one pair of sweatpants at a time. Nguyen is a senior fashion design student at the University of Texas, and for him, fashion is about glamour, layers of texture and sparkling adornments. His closet reveals a woman’s sheer button down, but on a warm, breezy afternoon on UT campus, Nguyen conservatively sports a preppy plaid button down under his navy blue sweater. While his personality may be naturally reserved, his creations as a designer and experiences as a young, gay man in Austin are nothing less than interesting.

Nguyen, along with the rest of his senior fashion design class, created a unique collection for the University Fashion Group’s 2013 Fashion Show. This annual University of Texas Fashion Show provides the talented senior fashion design class an opportunity to showcase their own collection on the runway, and this year’s theme is ‘transcend’ where each designer interprets the term for their own collection.

Nguyen’s five-piece collection embodies a Hollywood lifestyle with feathered and hand-beaded designs; true labors of love. For Nguyen, transcend “feels light and ethereal…sheer and feathery,” but he started on his collection before the name was even picked. Thankful that his vision matched the fashion design department, he began working on his final collection last fall. For two projects he reinvented the luxurious lifestyle of a snow bunny vacationing at a ski lodge and learned how to layer a structured bodice for wedding gowns. Then it was time to find his inspiration for this show: fabric. He began with brocade, looking to create an entire suit inspired by a Dolce and Gabbana baroque collection. From there his collection turned into strictly glamour.

“There are a lot of sequins, lots of feathers, Swarovski crystals. So, it’s a really bright collection. When the lights hit the clothing, it’s going to be the main attraction,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen was born in Vietnam and lived there until he was ten years old, when his family relocated to Austin, Texas. Going to school in Vietnam meant a class full of boys, with only one or two girls in his school. At a young age, Nguyen had a suspicion that he was attracted to boys, but he didn’t fully explore that part of his life until he was older. Going to school with all boys made him think that maybe it was because males surrounded him most of the time, and the girls at his school were typically tomboys. Once he started dating in Texas, at 18, he realized that “girls just didn’t work out.” With an accepting mother and loving friends, Nguyen has a close-knit support group, prefers to stay home instead of jumping into the gay scene every weekend, and is currently dating only mannequins.

Growing up in Vietnam also meant school uniforms with nametag and all. Public schools in Vietnam aren’t free to the public like they are in the United States. Instead, families pay for tuition, textbooks, and uniforms. “Going to class without having to wear the same thing over and over again” opened up a whole new world to something he had “been missing his whole life,” and sparked his passion for fashion design. Nguyen pushes the boundaries and creates sexy, eccentric clothing, being a trendsetter is an important to him. With inspiration from the natural hill country; Sarah Burton, the creative director for Alexander McQueen; and Tom Ford, a native Austinite, it’s no surprise that Nguyen looks at the laid back style of Austin as his blank canvas. Seeing fewer t-shirts, jeans and sweatpants around town wouldn’t be his worst nightmare.

For more information about the 2013 Fashion Show ‘Transcend’ click here. The show is free and open to the public on Thursday, April 18, 2013. It begins at 7:15 pm at the Frank Erwin Center, with doors opening at 5:30 pm for pre-events. Be sure to arrive early to get your seat.