The man who has no imagination has no wings.
– Muhammad Ali
This is a quote on the Designs By Michael Ngo website. The designer, Michael Ngo, uses his imagination to push the boundaries of fashion with fabric, design, and technology.
Michael is a graduate and valedictorian of the graduating class of Fall 2014 – The Art Institute of California, Los Angeles. He prepares for his first fashion show, post graduation, with LA Fashion Week.
RPHill: Michael, what a great beginning to your fashion career to show at LA Fashion Council | LA Fashion Week. What was the process for getting in the show?
MN: Thank you, this has been an incredible journey and it’s so magical to have your dreams and vision brought to life. There’s been a lot of sacrifice, sweat and sleepless nights put into SHINOBI BALLROOM—my first full collection—and I wanted to make sure I found the perfect platform to debut my work. I then came across the emerging designer showcase Collections curated by the LA Fashion Council and I instantly knew that this was a platform that would best represent my work. I found their contact information online and reached out to the founder, Kelsi Smith, and she suggested that I should apply for a runway spot. I did just that along with sending over my look book and my website that featured some of my designs. The following day she emailed me back and offered me a runway spot to show in Collections—I was so honored!
I can imagine your excitement to present your work. What’s involved in getting ready for this big runway event, what goes on behind the scenes [BTS]?
A whole lot of everything; to be perfectly honest. I start by editing and finalizing the looks to styling it with the hair, makeup and accessories that complement the collection. Then I search for the perfect soundtracks that bring emotion to the collection and after I edit the music to make sure the flow is entertaining. Once I have the vibe of the runway along with the final looks that will be shown, it is then time to cast the models that will be the key to bring my vision to life. This is my debut runway show and I’ve been dreaming of this moment for many years so all of these ingredients have to be planned and executed perfectly in order to honor my vision.
There are also a lot of phone tag and group emails to keep everyone on the same page; at times it’s overwhelming but the more that’s being communicated, the better. Also, another key element for me to get ready for the big runway event is to have a social media plan to generate a buzz about my work. I’ve planned multiple photo shoots in advance so that I would have plenty of material to create that buzz to post the images or BTS footage on my social media platforms now that the big day is almost here. Something that goes hand-in-hand with social media is social networking. I think it’s really crucial to connect with the right people and have them be your collaborators, peers, or mentors. So many people are willing to help, you just have to ask.
As I talk to the EDGE network, the one commonality is to understand how to run a fashion business. Emerging designers learn that talent is not enough; you need to be business savvy. As a new fashion design graduate, what is the first order of business?
As recent fashion design graduate, the first order of business is to continue to work hard at building my brand and understanding that branding is crucial to starting a successful business. It’s important to know who you are as a designer, who your target market is, and what your brand stands for. Finding what makes me special and understanding how to market myself in the fashion world will put me on the path to a successful brand and business.
One thing I strongly believe that all fashion students do is to work in retail at least once before graduating. So much can be learned by working for an established brand; like understanding the consumerism that drives the industry, how to leverage design and commerciality, and what to do and what not to do. My experience in sales and retail management has really made me understand that fashion is a truly is a big business.
As an up and coming designer it is not easy getting your collection exposed. Exposure comes in many ways, such as product placement; trade shows; fashion shows; website; social media; meeting with retail buyers, etc. Do you have a preference of how you will expose your collection? Are there new areas of exposure you would like to pursue?
I mentioned earlier that social media is the platform that I have invested the most in and I will work to increase my social media presence to expose my labor of love, but I’m definitely networking with stylists to have my work in editorials and on celebrities. I think that once the collection has been exposed more, than I would love to take it to trade shows and showrooms for potential buyers.
You are making some very unique contributions to fashion as in The Illuminade Biker Vest. What inspired you to come up with this concept?
Thank you. It’s humbling to even think that my work would contribute to fashion. I actually designed that jacket specifically to wear to Lady Gaga’s art Rave and I came up with the concept after reminiscing about Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade. After the flashback to my childhood, I decided that I wanted to stand out like a parade.
Tell us about your experience in designing for Lady Gaga?
Well, to clear this up a little; I designed a couple of jackets that I wanted to give to Lady Gaga and was fortunate to give them to her when I met her. I was never asked to design and make anything for her by her or her team. So technically, yes she wore one of my designs, but I did not design for her. I wanted to show her how much she’s inspired me as an artist, a designer, and a human being. It really meant the world to me that she wore them because she is one of the reasons that really made me be brave to pursue a career in fashion and design in a time that I felt completely lost. It would be a dream come true to work with her and to design a garment requested by her and her team.
What an amazing road traveled so far, Michael. Would you like to share what you are working on or what’s coming from your brand, or do we just stay tuned?
First and foremost I am not sleeping until my runway debut. I have some surprises to make this the runway show of my dreams—you only get a runway debut once; might as well go out with a bang! After that storm passes, then it’s continuing the trend of not sleeping until I’m able to turn what I’ve devoted myself to into a proper business so that I can repay my parents for all of their sacrifices; and to show everyone and anyone that’s ever believed in me that their belief paid off. I’m grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to share my creativity with the world and I know that the path I’m on will have many more opportunities to come. So until then “stay tuned.”
EDGE congratulates Michael Ngo on his journey so far and extends continued success for the future!
All Images F/W 2015 Collection | Courtesy of Michael Ngo