Catherine Bui is a Vietnamese-American fashion designer from northern California with a new clothing collection called “Lovelina”. Lovelina is a feminine, elegant, and sophisticated line aimed toward the young contemporary woman. My collection utilizes silks, wools, and vintage fabrications to create romantic and flattering styles. In addition to that, I’m beginning to incorporate eco-friendly materials into my collection such as organic hemp, soybean, and bamboo. I also have a strict no-sweatshop policy. Each piece in my collection is made locally under fair labor practices. Retail prices for the collection range from $60 – $250.Catherine Bui is a Vietnamese-American fashion designer from northern California with a new clothing collection called “Lovelina”. Lovelina is a feminine, elegant, and sophisticated line aimed toward the young contemporary woman. Her collection utilizes silks, wools, and vintage fabrications to create romantic and flattering styles. In addition to that, Catherine is began to incorporate eco-friendly materials into her collection such as organic hemp, soybean, and bamboo. She also has a strict no-sweatshop policy. Each piece in her collection is made locally under fair labor practices. Retail prices for the collection range from $60 – $250. Learn a little more about the eco-friendly, feminine designer
ASIANCE: How long have you been designing?
Catherine: Officially, I’ve only been designing for 2 years. Although I graduated from the Fashion Design and Merchandising program at my college in 2002, I took a long detour by going into a bio/sci major. For a few years, I thought about working towards becoming a pharmacist due to pressure from my family, isn’t that crazy? In 2006, however, I made the decision to turn back to fashion and subsequently, Lovelina emerged from that.
ASIANCE: Do you incorporate your Vietnamese/Asian heritage into your clothes? Every collection?
Catherine: I actually don’t incorporate any Vietnamese/Asian influences in my mainstream collection. The Lovelina Collection is a chic, vintage-inspired collection for everyday elegant style. I’m also working hard to make my collection as eco-friendly as possible by incorporating organic, sustainable fibers, vintage fabrics, and manufacturer surplus textiles (leftover/discarded fabrics from large clothing and textile manufacturers) in order to reduce waste.
However, I have a great love for traditional Asian designs such as the Ao Dai, Cheongsam, Kimono, Hanbok, etc. Since I’m Vietnamese by ethnicity, I really love working with the Ao Dai silhouette, which I find to be very elegant and graceful. I’ve worked on side projects where I’ve taken the Ao Dai to really creative heights, modifying it with contemporary fashion or fusing it with other types of ethnic traditional dress. So although I don’t use Asian influence in my commercial designs, I do satisfy my creative outlet and love for Asian design in my side projects.
ASIANCE: What Vietnamese designers are coming out that you think will be successful (besides yourself)?
Catherine: I think every Vietnamese designer that I’ve heard of or met has the potential to be incredibly successful, so I don’t want to single out any individual designers. Growing up in a really big, traditional Vietnamese family (I have over 50 family members on the west coast, not counting the midwest and east coast) and being really connected with the Vietnamese community in the northern bay area, I’ve observed that Vietnamese people are very hardworking, resourceful, and have really keen business sense. When we set our sights on doing something, we always follow through and often to great success.
ASIANCE: Which designers are your favorites?
Catherine: The last time I traveled to Vietnam, I really got to see the fashion district and went to a few fashion shows. I’m embarrassed that I no longer remember any of the designers’ names, but there was A LOT of talent there. The designers in Vietnam are so bold and creative!
As far as designers who are household names, in RTW (ready-to-wear) I really love Betsey Johnson. I adore her whimsical designs, just one look and you know that it’s Betsey Johnson. I want to develop a trademark style like hers. In haute couture, I’m extremely impressed by Georges Chakra, Elie Saab, and Marchesa. These designers create amazing, over-the-top-gorgeous gowns that I cannot imagine any woman feeling less than goddess-like in.
ASIANCE: If you weren’t designing you would be… …
Catherine: Doing anything else creative! I’m really good with my hands and am really crafty. Did you know that I’m trained in makeup artistry as well? I’ve done makeup for weddings, photo shoots, events, etc. I’ve done makeup for the majority of my shoots. It’s only when I want something super-amazing that I ask a good friend of mine, who is the most talented makeup artist I’ve ever met, to makeup my models. I also love, and am good at, crafting accessories and props, such as chokers, hair ornaments, Venetian-style masks, lace fans, etc. If I wasn’t a designer, I don’t think I’d starve.
ASIANCE: Where do you hire your models?
Catherine: The models are usually local girls that I know personally. I’m just lucky I know beautiful people. Haha. One of my models is a family friend. She’s sweet, intelligent, and drop-dead gorgeous. On top of that, she’s held the title of Miss Little Saigon in San Francisco! Isn’t that amazing? Another one of my models went to high school with one of my younger sisters. She’s really fun, smart, beautiful, of course, and she’s tried out to be on America’s Next Top model. I’ve had the good luck to work with very wonderful, professional, and talented girls.
ASIANCE: Do you mostly hire asian models?
Catherine: Merely by coincidence have I been hiring models of Asian ethnicity so far. They’re local, which is convenient, and they fit the samples. I do admire beauty in the form of every ethnicity and am looking forward to hiring models from diverse ethnic backgrounds. I’m an Asian designer, but I design clothes for everyone.
ASIANCE: Do you have a muse?
Catherine: I don’t really have one particular thing that inspires me, like a muse. Maybe one day that will happen. For the time being, inspiration comes to me from everywhere.
ASIANCE: Give us a little bit on your background. Where were you born? Who is Asian?, etc?
Catherine: To be very specific, I’m 3/4 Vietnamese, 1/4 Chinese. My maternal grandfather is Chinese. I was born in Thailand, while my parents were on their way from Vietnam to the America. I’ve pretty much grown up here in the U.S., we got here when I was only 1 month old and I’ve been here ever since.
ASIANCE: Who is your target market? God your clothes are beautiful!!!
Catherine: My target market is the professional, young (and young at heart) contemporary woman who loves romantic, elegant style with vintage flair. She is smart and forward while socially and ecologically conscious.
ASIANCE: Do you sew or just do design?
Catherine: I trained in sewing for 3 years in my design program and still never got the hang of it. I sewed a skirt for myself once to attend the ballet in San Francisco. It fell apart at the seams while I was on my way home! I’d feel pretty badly about subjecting my consumers to such poor workmanship, therefore I do what I’m good at, design, then leave the rest to professionals. I have a really good working relationship with my contractors, I work with them every step of the way, and everything is done locally so I know for sure that every part of the Lovelina Collection creation process is under fair labor conditions.