Charlotte Pham

Fashion designer Vu Lan Anh has set herself and her áo dài brand La Sen Vu apart with an unwavering emphasis on traditional Vietnamese cultural values and techniques.

After 10 years of designing áo dài and with a number of successful collections to her name, designer Lan Anh has become a well-known figure in the fashion world. But many may not know she is also an architect and lecturer at the Hanoi Architectural University.

Born and raised in a family with a tradition of working in architecture, Lan Anh’s passion for art and painting was nurtured at a very young age. It was at university that Lan Anh found an interest in designing clothes. By 2012, after designing áo dài first for herself and then for friends and family members, her talent had become apparent. That was when Lan Anh decided to create the La Sen Vu brand, with an aim of creating áo dài true to traditional forms and techniques.

With the knowledge of an architect, Lan Anh has an in-depth understanding of art, modeling and color schemes and a logical thought process about visual construction. The special feature of La Sen Vu lies in its formula for tailoring, which has been researched by the designer herself for many years. For her, each áo dài has to be elaborately and meticulously finished to best complement the physical features of the wearer. In addition, the painterly features clearly seen in Lan Anh’s designs come from her art and architecture background. From mixing materials and colors to carefully choosing embroidery and beading techniques to selecting patterns that are heavily influenced by folk art, all have become unique features of the La Sen Vu brand.

However, what truly sets La Sen Vu apart in the áo dài fashion scene is the consistency of the designer’s inspiration: the Vietnamese culture. In an age where Western trends are prevalent and many traditional materials are becoming a thing of the past, Lan Anh still prioritizes honoring traditional values of her homeland in her designs. While modern áo dài show more skin with designs stressing wearability, Lan Anh holds firm to her belief in traditional designs. “I will try my best to maintain the shapes of the traditional áo dài with better designs, because for me, this beauty always has its own appeal which will stand the test of time,” she said.

Along with improving tailoring techniques, Lan Anh also renews the national dress by drawing inspiration from cultural heritage and folk art imagery. She reimagines these Vietnamese cultural values in her collections with an abstract and inventive perspective, helping people approach them in a new yet nostalgic way.

The designs of La Sen Vu clearly demonstrate Lan Anh’s ingenuity and finesse in working with traditional sources from Dong Ho, Hang Trong and Kim Hoang paintings to ancient Vietnamese sculpture patterns. “I believe that in the age of integration when we learn from the world’s best, the Vietnamese culture is one value that we have to preserve and cannot afford to let it fade away,” she said. “This is also the reason why I am always on the search to honor traditional values of the áo dài, for example the beauty of familiar flowers which are purely Vietnamese such as dahlia, chrysanthemum, tuberose and lotus and refraining from using the imagery of foreign ,flowers like tulips or peonies in my designs.” For Lan Anh, each áo dài is a work of art containing aesthetic and cultural values that she as a designer strives understand, preserve and develop. More than any award, achievement or renowned international fashion runway, what Lan Anh truly wants is to create designs that not only make wearers feel more beautiful but also give them pride about the culture and traditions of their homeland.