Passion for fashion? Us, too. Lierre by Linh Nguyen is a label we love. Not just for its designs, but because Lierre’s success proves there’s no ‘right’ way to be a designer these days. With no formal education or experience, Linh took her business online. She grabbed over 20K followers organically back in 2015. Here’s her Indochine 2.0 story.
Start from the beginning. Where does the name ‘LIERRE’ come from?
Lierre means ‘ivy’ in French. The inspiration for the name came from my childhood memory of watching Batman. I was attracted to the female villain character, Poison Ivy – one of the world’s most notorious eco-terrorists. She uses plant poisons and mind-controlling pheromones for her criminal activities, which are usually aimed at protecting endangered species and the natural environment.
What was most memorable to me was her green outfit and bright-red hair along with her charming and seductive gestures. Those admirations for a fictional character prompted me to take out my diary and begin sketching. It was my first fashion illustration, though the drawing was amateur and the text below it read, “I have a dream of becoming a fashion designer and I’m going to name the brand Ivy”. I still have that diary with the sketch and the note to myself from when I was in 6th grade.
By sophomore year of college, I finally decided to start my own fashion brand as a fun learning experience to help me gain insight into the fashion industry here in Vietnam. I picked the name LIERRE because it means ‘ivy’ in French and because the shapes of the letters are symmetrical, which would make a good logo.
Where do you get your inspiration for your collections?
Since I didn’t pursue an education in fashion design, the way I am inspired is quite temporary. I follow Fashion Weeks and study trends for the upcoming seasons. I also get inspired by movies and by things that I desire from the fashion industry that are currently missing in the market. Additionally, I carry a small notebook with me wherever I go so that I can capture any ideas that may suddenly pop into my head. However, after three years of working in the field, I realise the importance of having a well-thought-out message for each of my collections in order to create my own unique voice and style.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
The biggest challenge I had to face when I first started the brand was finding the right fabric suppliers and manufacturing company, because quality is an important attribute for my business. I was unsatisfied with the quality of the first batch of samples sent back from the factory. Each design often takes 2 – 3 rounds of editing before they meet all the requirements. All the hard work and difficulties I had to overcome were then rewarded with positive feedback and support from my customers, which is a big motivation for me to do better.
How did you first attract customers?
With limited capital to begin with, I spent a lot of my marketing effort on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, targeting potential customers and interacting with current customers to help build trusting relationships. I encouraged customers to send in their reviews and feedback on products so that I could identify areas I needed to improve on for our next collections. I also put a lot of effort into each of the photoshoots to help launch quality ‘lookbooks’.
The initial marketing plan was purely based on my own effort, with the help from some of my friends in modelling and shooting for the collection. However, I would like to point out that this is only applicable for new businesses that operate on a small scale. To stand out in the long-run, Lierre needs to have a clear marketing strategy and plan in order to be successful in the Vietnamese fashion industry.
How competitive is the fashion start-up industry here in Vietnam? Do you have any recommendations for other start-ups?
The fashion industry in Vietnam has only been growing seriously for the past three years, which creates a great opportunity for enthusiasts of the industry. Most of the start-up designers are still small and lack experience, except for a few popular brands such as Lane JT, Subtle & Simple, Elpis…
So, if you have a dream of starting your own fashion brand and getting your name out there in the market, then you should not be afraid of the challenge but instead, think of it as an opportunity. There’s no better time to face the challenge than now and always remember: challenges only make you stronger and more mature.
Check out Linh’s work at: