KEW High School student Andy Truong dreams of racking his eponymous fashion range at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York in five years. ''That's if mum will allow me to leave school,'' he says ruefully, ''Which I believe she won't.''
He's quite right; she won't. But, 15-year-old Truong is bulldozing every other obstacle on his path to world fame anyway. ''I just want my name out there,'' he says.
Truong will be the youngest designer to mount a solo show at next month's Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. With $900 saved from his jobs on a Hoyts cinema candy bar and bagging bread at Bakers Delight after school, he has started a process designers twice his age find daunting. ''I didn't even know that I'd applied to fund [the show] and do everything myself,'' Truong explains.
''I clicked the wrong button [on his online application] by mistake. But, when they told me, I thought whatever it took, I'd still be in fashion week!''
A $1500 grant from Uniting Care Connections' South Eastern Chances initiative for young people boosted his savings to a princely $2400, still a fraction of the cost of a typical fashion show. But, Truong called in favours and relentlessly researched cheap ways around his lack of capital. He mustered 20 models, 15 hair and make-up artists, five photographers, one publicity agent and a host of volunteers; ''So far,'' he adds.
He will show a dozen outfits from his spring/summer 2012/2013 collection. ''It's inspired by warm, exotic, tropical things,'' he says. ''Fish and birds and plants.'' Among the designs are full-length vivid pink and orange silk dresses with carefully constructed bodices and gathered skirts. A sequinned silk dress with split sides and sheer, floating panels over a tight miniskirt, is his tribute to the Vietnamese national costume, the ao dai.
Truong is an only child, and second generation Vietnamese Australian. His mother worked as a machinist for major fashion brands and he remembers fiddling with buttons and threads at her knee. ''I liked fashion,'' he says. ''I suppose because it was spending time with mum.'' He sketched compulsively and often presented designs to his aunts and grandmother. ''I made them sign which dress they liked.''
Truong's mother emphatically abandoned her interest in fashion to work in a bakery, but his own obsession went off the scale. ''She didn't teach me anything,'' he says, smiling. ''Everything I learned was from the internet or YouTube. I even have to hem her skirts!''
Truong will stage his fashion debut in Trunk Town, where he hopes his tropical vision will lure at least a sprinkling of boutique buyers, potential clients and fashion week's curious. ''I want to be showcasing in Paris with an haute couture line in maybe 15 years,'' he says.
In the meantime, it's unlikely fashion week has enlisted one so young, or as unshakeably committed to a dream before.
From: The Age