One of the high points of last weekend’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival at Swope Park was a dazzling fashion show featuring the couture creations of young Vietnamese-American designer Nhut Trang. His name may be a lot more difficult to pronounce than, say, Mark Jacobs or Alexander McQueen, but the Ho Chi Minh City native, who immigrated to the United States in 1992, has the same passion for creating beautiful clothes.
Trang makes his living operating the Nhut Trang Tailoring & Alterations shop at 8156 Northwest Prairie View Road in Kansas City, North, and started designing clothes when he was still in his teens and living in Vietnam. As soon as he could work a sewing machine, he says, he was draping silk and satin fabrics over the figures of his friends. He still is. It took Nhut four months to create the 28 different gowns – all handmade – featured in the Sunday afternoon show at the festival; all were modeled by his friends, mostly women who sing with him at the Church of the Holy Martyrs Church at 7801 Paseo, which has a predominantly Vietnamese congregation.
This was the first year that Trang exhibited his designs at the annual Ethnic Festival, and he was overcome by the rousing applause that his candy-colored collection of slinky gowns received. “I get a lot of requests for wedding dresses or bridesmaid dresses, but these were very different designs,” Trang told me.
Asked if any of the festival attendees offered to buy one of the dresses, Trang shook his head. “I gave them to the models who wore them. They’re all my friends.” – Charles Ferruzza