Using her own identity and knowledge of womanhood, Isabella Duong’s new brand Hayiichu engages in and resonates with the female experience by creating designs that are equally charming as they are insightful. Worn by the likes of influencers such as @evelilycp, Isabella has got one very dainty foot in the door and she is not afraid to knock it down.
Her beautiful designs feature coquette-style bows, ruffles, puffy underskirts, and ready-to-dominate latex, embodying the true nature of an independent and sexy woman. The combination of skin-tight silhouettes with the more effeminate and pure look of pumpkin skirts and shorts creates the perfect image of the diversity of the female form that can shift from innocent to sensual simultaneously, playing on the different aesthetics and perceptions of women.  
The purpose of the collection is to let wearers feel authentic and empowered, giving them the outlet to explore their potentialities and identity. Infused with Asian motifs, Isabella has incorporated her Vietnamese roots, blending elements of traditional attire such as embroidery and the backless style of áo yếm (Vietnamese undergarments) with more modern anime-style aesthetics that are hyper-feminine and loud. This is, therefore, one collection that is sure to appeal to the romantic masses because of its versatility and meaning. Introducing, the lovely Isabella Duong.
Hello Isabella, it’s lovely to talk with you about your new brand Hayiichu! To get started, are you able to explain your beautiful slogan: “Embracing Femininity with a Touch of Individuality”? What are the main themes of your collection?
To me as a designer, it's of the utmost importance that I make sure the brand’s identity is genuinely a part of mine. Fashion has long been my avenue for self-expression. Hence, for my very first collection in the industry, I simply put out what my identity truly is, something that friends of mine who know me well as a person and my style will go “That's Isabella”.
At 24, having navigated the uncertainties of adolescence, I've discovered a deeper understanding of myself by embracing my femininity. This realisation is the cornerstone of Hayiichu's message. I create unapologetically feminine garments that resonate with women who wear them, at the same time inspiring self-expression and showing off your personality within this framework. My goal is to build a universe where everyone feels welcome to engage and make it uniquely theirs.
You say you are self-taught; what inspired you to start this brand, and how did you manage to teach yourself to such high a level without any guidance? What resources did you use to help you along the way?
My inspiration stems from creating pieces that resonate with my own sense of style and envisioning what I would love to wear. Then extending that vision to cater to women who share the same taste. It's dressing feminine and girlish charming women but at the same time big on individuality.
Behind the scenes, I’m supported by a talented production team consisting entirely of skilled and knowledgeable women whom I deeply respect and appreciate. Their many years of sewing skills and expertise enrich my design ideas. I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to work [with] and learn from them. Attending fashion illustration classes a year ago has also allowed me to convey design ideas in my head to my team more effectively. I remember drawing lots of looks from Simone Rocha, Comme Des Garçons, Alexander McQueen and many other revered fashion houses back then.
Can you talk us through the creative process of the collection? What was your starting point and how did this change as you began forming the collection?
It all started about two years ago when I crafted my very first design: a black baby doll dress adorned with pattern-embroidered taffeta material and grosgrain ribbon embellishments. It caught the attention of many, sparking inquiries from people eager to purchase similar designs. From there, I continued creating pieces, sharing them with friends and family, and receiving positive feedback. It was a simple beginning, not necessarily a conscious decision to become a fashion designer, but rather a natural progression driven by my love for creative expression.
I would say the aesthetic of the collection has remained consistent since then, still a blend of femininity and creativity, rooted in self-expression. Our goal is for women wearing our collection to feel authentic and empowered, embracing a unique blend of femininity and individuality.
How have you incorporated your Vietnamese roots into your collection? Or Asian culture in general. You also mention you lived in England for a period, how did living here influence your brand?
Incorporating my Vietnamese roots and Asian culture into Hayiichu’s collection has been a significant aspect of my creative process. The collection draws inspiration from traditional Asian motifs and techniques, infused with modern silhouettes and details. Bows and puffy structure skirts reflect the hyper-feminine aesthetics often seen in Southeast Asian pop and anime culture and are made with pattern-embroidered taffeta material inspired by traditional attire. Or other incorporation of elements like backless details and tops inspired by Vietnamese áo yếm or wooden shoes reminiscent of Japanese geta footwear.
My time living in England has also shaped the brand in many ways. I was exposed to such diverse cultural influences and artistic perspectives. This fusion of East and West, modern and traditional, in different aspects like beauty standards, architecture, and national garments has become a great inspiration for me. I also aim to make it at the heart of the brand’s identity, creating garments that celebrate the beauty of cultural diversity and individual expression.
The collection, as you have said, is very girly. What is femininity to you and what makes a garment feminine? How do you, therefore, approach inclusivity in your designs if there is a very particular clientele?
For me, femininity encompasses a range of feelings that I want my garments to convey, from softness, purity, innocence and girlish sweetness to romantic, sensuality and power. It's about celebrating the fluid nature of womanhood. In my collection, femininity is expressed through elements like bows, tulle, and voluminous dresses, which evoke a sense of girlish charm and romance. Additional features like backless cuts and see-through fabrics celebrate the female form, adding a touch of allure. Regardless of the current trends, my affinity for bows and the girly aesthetic shines through in my designs. Femininity, to me, is both cute and sensual, but above all, it's about unapologetically being one’s self.
In terms of inclusivity, the brand aims to be as inclusive as possible. We offer made-to-measure options for all body types, ensuring that everyone can find a garment that fits and makes them feel confident. Furthermore, the decision to feature a transgender model in my first collection, adorned with tattoos typically associated with masculinity, exemplifies my commitment to inclusivity. This choice challenges traditional notions of gender and beauty, showing that femininity knows no bounds and can be celebrated by everyone, regardless of identity or background.
I love your combination of materials! The fitted latex combined with puffy tule really adds to the dimension of your garments (both literally and metaphorically). Why did you decide to utilise so many different shapes and patterns? To me, it feels like you are imitating the many different forms of the female body.
I'm glad you appreciate the combination of the garments’ material choices! Your approach perfectly encapsulates the essence of celebrating individuality within my designs. I want each individual to see and feel themselves reflected in the designs [and] also evoke personal perspectives.
The latex material, typically associated with sexiness and usually structured hugging tightly to the body is juxtaposed with the puffy, innocent silhouette of the pumpkin skirts and shorts, creating a unique blend of cuteness and sensuality. This juxtaposition excites me as a designer, as it allows for a rich exploration of different aesthetics and perspectives.
You talk about your brand as if she is an actual human. Do you think personifying your brand makes your clothing more intimate with the individual? Like wearing Hayiichu is a personal experience?
Yes, absolutely. I want the brand to have a more intimate connection with wearers. I hope to create a feeling, as you said, that wearing Hayiichu is a personal experience, where each piece becomes a reflection of the wearer’s unique identity and style. It’s more than just fabric, it’s about sharing the brand’s story and making it a part of their own. I hope this approach fosters a stronger bond between the individual and the brand, creating a sense of loyalty and belonging that goes beyond mere fashion.
What gave you the courage to step out of your comfort zone? This brand is an example of your resilience as an artist, after having to face familial doubts. Why did you choose to follow your heart rather than stay on a more corporate path?
Creating garments is my driving force and new ideas energise me with a mix of excitement, passion, and motivation. It’s a natural and fun process for me, yet it also comes with its share of nerves and stress. Despite the challenges I face in other aspects of my work, the act of creating fills me with a sense of fulfilment and purpose. I believe that this creative process should be invigorating and uplifting, serving as a constant reminder of why I'm pursuing my dreams. It’s this joy and satisfaction in bringing my ideas to life that keeps me moving forward towards my goals.
What challenges have you faced and what obstacles did you have to overcome as a newly formed brand to get to this point? What advice would you give to anyone currently undertaking the same journey?
As a newly formed brand, I've faced various obstacles along the way. From establishing the brand’s presence in a competitive industry to building brand recognition and gaining traction, every step has come with its own set of hurdles. Personally, one of the biggest challenges has been overcoming self-doubt and uncertainty. But I've learned to trust myself and take action despite the fear of failure. Starting a brand requires courage, determination, and perseverance. My advice to anyone undertaking a similar journey is to believe in yourself and take the first step. Don't let self-doubt hold you back! Instead, embrace the journey with confidence and resilience!
What sets your brand apart from others in the fashion industry? How do you think you will manage to maintain your brand identity and do you think your brand identity will change?
What sets Hayiichu apart from others in the fashion industry is our unwavering commitment to authenticity and our unique brand identity, which is deeply rooted in my personal experiences and values. The brand is a genuine reflection of who I am as an individual and what I stand for as a designer. I aim to rewrite the rules of femininity with every new collection. While it may evolve and grow over time, I will always stay true to my core values and beliefs.
My focus is on the present moment, allowing the future to unfold naturally and spontaneously. We will continue to preserve the essence of what makes us distinctive and resonate with our audience, ensuring that our brand remains relevant and authentic in the ever-changing fashion landscape.
What would you say to your younger self who is just beginning to explore the fashion world?
I would tell my younger self to embrace every moment of the journey. There will be highs and lows, but each experience will shape you into the designer you’re meant to become. Don’t be afraid to take risks and follow your creative instincts. Stay true to your vision and don’t let anyone dim your passion. Surround yourself with mentors and peers who inspire and support you, and never stop learning and evolving. Remember that every setback is an opportunity to learn and grow stronger. Above all, trust in yourself and believe in your unique voice and perspective. The fashion world is vast and ever-changing, but with dedication, perseverance, and a dash of fearlessness, you’ll carve out your own path in the industry.