Interview With Vivienne Hu: New York Fashion Week 2020
Written by Nhu Pham
I recently spoke with Vivienne Hu to learn how her unique life and career path — studying in Germany, working in the investment banking industry and living in New York City — shaped her fashion line. Her designs combine classic, European elegance with New York downtown style rooted in an exotic and historic heritage.
Vivienne Hu’s Fall Winter 2020 collection captured Romanticism of the west, Americana dreams and 70s vibes while keeping true to Vivienne’s signature style. Lots of belled shoulders and los of belled pants. Using bold textiles and sophisticated tailoring, Hu’s collection ranged from elegant and classic suit silhouettes to sexy yet elevated cocktail dresses. Fresh prints from the designer such as the peony flower, prosperity, and good fortune adding heritage to and storytelling to a multifaceted collection.
Q: Hi Vivienne, you wouldn’t believe but I also studied and lived in the same town called Stuttgart in Germany. As you know Stuttgart is this conservative village, rich in history and wholly different from crazy, culturally-diverse and fast-paced New York. What encouraged you to move to New York from this different world?
Stuttgart is great and the people there are friendly. I spent my wonderful 6 years of college there and made great memories. However, I always loved New York. I had a chance to visit the city couple of times with my parents when I was a child. It is an international and energetic city. Everyone can find their own place here, especially in the fashion and finance industry. People here don’t shy away from being aggressive, they have an entrepreneurial mind set and are very focus but at the same time, very tolerant. If you work hard, you can achieve anything because you meet a lot of people/mentors who are there to help and support you along your way.
Q: Despite the big move from Stuttgart to New York, you also change your career from Finance to the Fashion Industry. What inspired this radical Change?
I worked in the Investment Banking Industry for three years and after three years I got a good understanding of the business. One day, I passed by the Parson School of Design and decided to apply. It was an unexplainable gut feeling which told me to apply. After I got the admission, I quit my finance job without a second thought and followed my passion for fashion and creativity that I had since I was a child.
Q: Did you ever think of going back to Finance?
I love my work and I am so busy that I do not have time to even think about it.
Q: Did your finance background help you in the fashion industry?
Definitely. In my finance career, I worked on analysis of business and structured models that helped me to think of a strategy for my own business design. Moreover, working in finance gave me a mentality of staying focus, professional and straight forward in whatever I am doing. All these transferable skillsets are important to build my own business.
Q: What is like to create clothing with the finance industry in mind?
My work experience in Banking and the restrictive dress code and limiting expectations influenced my design in a way that pushed them to be fearless. I always keep in mind the contemporary women who are not afraid to change the future, who are independent charming, sexy, feminine, smart and curious.
Q: On top of the Finance industry, what else has inspired and influenced your work?
You will see my personal journey, from China, to Germany, to New York deeply embedded in my collections.
I took my Chinese heritage, particularly the historic DunHuang Mogao Grottoes, for inspiration when creating the Fall/Winter 2018 Runway.
Before entering the Banking industry, I studied at one of the most beautiful campus university in the south of Germany. The University’s emblem and its main building, the baroque palace is surrounded by historic parklands and botanical gardens. My German roots, studying at the University of Hohenheim, helped me to form the fashion Spring/Summer 2019 Runway inspired by flowers and fruits, youthful and vibrant look, flowers and botanical gardens, organic and delicate nature of the flowers, while also incorporating structure from the campus architecture.
And New York, well, New York inspires me every day.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your design process and what goes on behind the scenes?
Everything is born out of a concept. I find inspiration and I run with it. There is no stopping me after that. I also have a great team behind me. My assistant designer JiRu Jia is my rock, I don’t know what I would do without her by my side. There are so many amazing, valuable members of my team.
Q: You are not afraid to use embellishment, sparkles, ruffles and bows. In no way is this a conservative line. Do you wear the collection to work yourself?
Yes, I wear it every single day. Work or Play. I love to see the effect it has on people, it honestly is so empowering to dress like you want.
Q: What is something you are excited about right now?
We just launched an exciting collaboration on Farfetch.com. There are styles available for
purchase now with Danish jewelry brand Shamballa jewels. We have also been blown away by the reception to our new collection. It just means the world to me to hear that we are creating clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories that people love.
Q: Looking back to your career path, what would give young designers who are at the beginning of their careers?
Passion + Purpose = Power. I am a OTIS Mentor for graduate design students in LA and I tell all the students and you that it is never too late to follow your passion. If you follow your passion and enjoy it, you will never regret it, no matter how old you are, time does not matter, but you.