Phuc Ung is in his final year of a Bachelor of Fashion (Design) at RMIT. More importantly, he is about to live out the fashion student’s dream of seeing his creations walk down the runway at a Melbourne Fashion Week (MFW) event.
The weeks of preparation leading up to a runway are stressful for most designers, but Ung’s full final-year workload adds another layer of complexity.
“It's a combination of excitement and also stress,” says Ung. “There's just a lot of pressure and everything happens really quickly… the workload is actually quite intense.”
Coming from a fashion family, Ung is proud to be following in his seamstress mother’s footsteps. His family are Vietnamese refugees – his mother brought her garment-making knowledge to Australia and now works in fashion manufacturing. Ung and his sister sat alongside their mother, learning to sew labels onto garments from an early age.
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“I learned to sew from my mum, as a child, and I think that really helped me with the technical skills,” he says. “And then as I grew up, I kind of felt like I really enjoyed fashion – more than just the manufacturing. I am in fashion school, and my sister also did fashion school, at RMIT. So yeah, it's in the family, I guess.”
For inspiration, Ung looks to modern technology and social media trends. The current trend of subverting the traditional runway – a recent hit on social media – is one of the influences that shaped Ung’s upcoming collection. Ung aims to parody the sleek, tech-focused modern fashion runways, but on a student budget.
“It's kind of like a subversion of a traditional runway show where people expect things to be beautiful and choreographed and working,” says Ung. “And, in a way, it’s a critique of the fashion system as well.”
Ung says these viral fashion moments are part of a bigger movement within fashion. “A lot of designers have moved to the point now where they're really critiquing the traditional fashion show. And there are many designers that approach it in different ways. And it's kind of like internet culture as well; where you take things, you break them down and you create something for consumption on devices.”
This creates more opportunities for local designers – a cause Ung is passionate about.
“The Melbourne scene is growing really well now, so it's nice time to do it from here. And it's great that in Australia we're isolated from the rest of the world, which is good for local designers. We have an opportunity here that's untapped.”
Last year, Ung took a year off from his course and attempted to navigate the industry on his own. He doesn’t recommend this approach, saying that he learned more over the first few weeks of returning to university than during his year off.
“There's so much motivation and so much assistance there. And there's the program that kind of just drives you forward… I think it is probably the best way to approach it – just to get straight into the program,” he says.
When it comes to getting started in the fashion industry, Ung has just one piece of advice. “Just do it,” he says.
Phuc Ung is a finalist in the Student Collections Runway taking place on Friday 27 October as part of Melbourne Fashion Week. Tickets are on sale now, visit the website to purchase and for the full program.
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