By Tracie May-Wagner

Pioneering entrepreneur Trang Le is one of the most significant figures in the Vietnamese fashion industry. As CEO of Vietnam International Fashion Week and television production company MultiMedia JSC, she has turned a global spotlight on the fashion talent of Vietnam. She talks to Tracie May-Wagner about how self-belief and a powerful vision propelled her journey to success.

T.M.W: What inspired you to pursue a career in fashion?

TL: My career in fashion has been a long journey. I never intended to get into fashion. I received my undergraduate and master’s degree in finance and accounting. So, I thought I would pursue a career as the Finance Controller or the Finance Director of a large multinational corporation. I honestly knew nothing about fashion and never imagined that I would ever end up in the fashion business.

TMW: Really? So, how exactly did it happen?

TL: I worked for a time as the accountant for a Vietnamese television production company. They licensed and produced the Vietnamese version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which was wildly popular here at the time. Unfortunately, the company ended up folding and I found myself out of work but realized that through that job, I had garnered a real passion for media and television production. So, I started thinking that maybe I should just create my own opportunities, rather than work again for someone else, doing something that I really did not love.

I launched MultiMedia JSC in 2005. We began as a distribution company for international TV shows, where we would broker the licenses to Vietnamese TV networks for airing rights. I would travel to various international TV market events to see what licenses were available for my clients, and I happened upon the CBS Television display and saw a poster for America’s Next Top Model. That particular project intrigued me on a personal level and inspired me to try my hand at producing a show myself through my company. At the time, I did not know a thing about fashion. Yet, I did believe strongly that this could potentially be a format that would work very well in Vietnam, as it would not only benefit Vietnamese women as a whole, but also allow for opportunities and career paths for so many beautiful young people within my country. After a bidding war with several other production companies, CBS granted me the license for the show, and through intensive study and learning as I went, we were off!

Thankfully, the series was a big hit here, which spearheaded my later producing Project Runway Vietnam and the rest of my projects. It also inspired me to launch my modeling agency and to create Vietnam International Fashion Week as a platform to showcase both our country’s magnificent models and our incredibly talented local fashion designers.

TMW: Regarding fashion week, Vietnam was the only country globally to have produced an in-person series of runway presentations, with full audiences, in 2020 due to the pandemic. How did you make that happen with the government’s strict Covid-19 restrictions?

TL: We had postponed our scheduled shows in Hanoi and had already invested so much time and money into producing the shows in Ho Chi Minh City that I needed to do everything in my power to try and proceed, no matter what. We followed the health guidelines to the letter. Every attending guest and staff member was required to wear a mask, we had multiple hand sanitizing stations available and we took temperature checks upon check in. Due to our vigilance, the government allowed us to proceed. It was incredibly stressful, as you can imagine, but thankfully it worked in our favor.

TMW: You are such an inspiration for so many. What advice would you give to a young, aspiring female businessperson?

TL: There are three key methods I always discuss when speaking at various leadership seminars. The first is to be fearless. If you allow yourself to experience fear, then you have already limited your potential.

The second is to believe in yourself. You must always believe in yourself, because if you do not, you will not have the self-confidence to pursue your dreams, no matter how many obstacles may block your path. I would have never achieved what I have in my career if I did not believe in my abilities. I refused to give up and continued to fight for what I wanted, and that determination and courage solely stemmed from my belief in myself.

The third is to be unique. Always try and create something that is different. Of course, you must do your research, and you may garner inspiration from others, but then it is your responsibility to make whatever it is you are developing have your personal signature. I amassed insight for my business through IMG Fashion in the United States. Although I loosely modeled Vietnam International Fashion Week and my modeling agency from IMG Fashion, I put my own unique stamp on it. I added several additional divisions including Image Consulting, and it has shaped beautifully into its own unique entity, with a singular brand identity. [C]

You must always believe in yourself, because if you do not, you will not have the self-confidence to pursue your dreams, no matter how many obstacles may block your path.

– Trang Le –

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