MELD fashionista Jamie-Maree Shipton goes backstage at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week to interview up and coming designers featured in the Innovators show. In part one of this interview series, she speaks to Leroy Nguyen.
When I met Leroy Nguyen, I’ll admit I was a little bit starstruck. His debut collection had me swooning as I contemplated all the lengths I would go to to get a piece. I was trying my hardest not to turn into a fan girl. Luckily, as soon as we began talking, it became clear that Leroy was a lovely and easy going person, which quickly calmed me.
Leroy has become a bright new star in the fashion world. His debut collection Natural Born Killer garnered much attention from the fashion elite, including high acclaim from blogger Margaret Zhang of Shine by Three, who shot pieces from this collection for Harper’s BAZAAR.
The collection was exactly on point with what the fashion world was craving. Boxy silhouettes in a bonded silk neoprene fabric, patchwork with different colours and textures to create shell like cocoon coats of beauty, and structured dresses that, although quite stiff, still accentuated the women’s frame and were oh-so-covetable.
So it’s not surprising Leroy’s MBFWA SS 13/14 collection had a lot of people overwhelmed with anticipation and excitement. It’s even less surprising that he was asked to be the opening collection for The Innovators show, a opportunity he says was “super exciting and a great honour”, and took some pressure off as he didn’t have to worry about change overs – that is, models getting changed from one collection to the other.
I was curious whether the acclaim and praise of his first collection had affected his process in creating this collection and subsequently whether he felt pressure to make this collection bigger and better.
‘There was definitely some internal pressure. There were a few moments when I thought about the hype that has been established,” he says.
It made him ponder how he was going to “meet up to that hype and expectation”.
But as he pulled up to the finish line, he felt the anxiety melting away.
He says he became more clam and more assured , and developed a new-found confidence.
“I think it’s a great collection. Whether it meets a mark or not, I’m sure it will, but that’s not what’s most important at the moment,” Leroy says.
“I have done a good job, I know I have, I’m really proud of it.”
Leroy’s confidence was rightly placed as post-show, it was obvious he had met the mark. The collection stayed true to the aesthetics showcased in his first collection as bonded silks and neoprenes were again used throughout. Leroy explains these fabrics were mixed with leather alongside crisp cottons and lightweight organzas and silks to create the boxy structures silhouettes.
When asked about the process in creating these shapes, he says it was about taking time, “creating an initial idea and sticking with it, continuing to pattern make and draft till you get the right shape”.
The overall goal, Leroy says, was to “create tension between heavy and lightweight fabrications, tension between sportswear influences and strict tailored clinical pieces”.
The main source of inspiration behind his current collection was from the film Willy Wonka, and it’s only logical that he named the collection The Candy Shop.
“It’s a classic. It was one of my favourite movies and books as a kid. It’s always kind of stuck with me as a feel good kind of go-to,” he says.
Besides the obvious attractions of the film – kaleidoscopic prints, colours and candy fare – Leroy explains his inspiration delved further.
“I was more interested in how deep the story actually was. If you look past all the psychedelic chocolate and cream, Willy Wonka is actually quite troubled and tired and is this really old soul,” he says.
“And a lot of the time the wonderland that he has comes across as quite trippy and threatening and scary, and I found this quite interesting for a children’s novel.”
These influences were evident on the runway. Psychedelic swirls like the giant lolly pops in the film were printed onto tough structured separates but also soft tailored silks. Sheer organzas in vivid colours were sewn into stiff but delicate looking pieces worn over swimwear like wrappers over lollies. Zipper details coming apart and opening at hems, symbolic of Willy Wonka’s unraveling train of thought.
The collection truly felt like the wonders of some mysterious candy land, the prints enticing and the over sized shapes aggressive, yet compelling.
A point of difference in this collection from his last was the inclusion of swimwear, and Leroy sees it as a natural progress of creation.
“Swimwear has always been an avenue I have wanted to explore. Yeah you can wear these pieces at the beach and the pool, but I’m quite interested in how a girl takes an interesting one piece or cool top and how she pairs it with other pieces to create a fresh new look,” he says.
Unsurprisingly then, his swimwear collection is fitting both for the beach and everyday-wear.
So what’s next? Menswear?
“Menswear is definitely something I would approach later on down the track, but I think at the moment I really want to establish myself as a women’s wear designer,” Leroy says.
And I have no doubt that when he does attempt menswear, that it will be a success too.
The Candy Shop collection by Leroy Nguyen: