Victoria Ho, Head of Fashion in the Centre for Communication and Design, believes in designing with integrity.
Fittingly, her research focuses on helping Vietnam preserve its cultural heritage through sustainable design.
Ho’s research is embedded in FASHION4FREEDOM, a social enterprise that seeks to incorporate old world artisans into new world markets.
Ho was responsible for the organisation’s latest SS16 Collection of textiles and accessories.
“Every design decision in this collection has been led by Vietnam,” Ho explained.
“For example, in the collection, there’s a black lacquered silk that’s created by beating coconuts against rock and water.
“It’s a dying art in Vietnam, so I’ve taken this as the starting point for my fabrics and colors, and everything was made around it.”
Preserving these traditions and merging them with modern fashion speaks to the mission of FASHION4FREEDOM.
Rachael Carson, Country Director for FASHION4FREEDOM, explained that the organization’s founder, LanVy Nguyen noticed a loss of culture as the country modernised and urbanised.
“People migrated from the rural areas to look for work, but, in the process, these areas lost their artisans.”
“At FASHION4FREEDOM, we ask ‘How can we include artisans and use their skills to preserve tradition?’”
Ho acknowledged that FASHION4FREEDOM’s mission is not an easy one. If there’s any chance for success, then the future leaders in the fashion industry must be knowledgeable about this issue.
“RMIT Vietnam trains the future managers of the fashion business in Vietnam, so what better way of keeping these traditional skills alive than by educating those leaders?” Ho questioned.
Ho has brought her research into the classroom on numerous occasions.
“The students enjoy being involved in a project that has so much to do with their heritage,” she said.
“They generally view western fashion as somehow more exquisite or better, but through this exposure they actually wanted Vietnamese influenced fashion more than western clothes.”
Ho noted that her involvement in F4F has benefited students in other ways too.
“As industry partners, FASHION4FREEDOM has talked to the students about the business side of fashion.”
“In those sessions, the students learned that it’s not enough to have a good idea. You need to have the finances to back up your business idea.”
Student Nguyen Vu Xuan Vy did an internship with FASHION4FREEDOM and has now started working for the social enterprise.
“I was so inspired and impressed by the concept of the social enterprise,” said Vy.
“I want to support artisans and help protect the culture of Vietnam.”