A Chance Encounter with Fashion Designer Tina Huang

I was at the California Market Center a few weeks ago admiring the Spring 2012 collections of some of my favorite designers when I stumbled across the Tina Huang collection. I was immediately drawn to the pieces' dainty and luxurious silk fabric and the refined but absolutely wearable tailoring. Fixated on my new finds, I didn't see Tina sitting just a few feet away until I had carefully looked through all the pieces. When our eyes finally locked, a look of instant recognition descended. We knew each other! She was a former Miss LA Chinatown princess, a pageant I had also competed in. The pageant was a formative experience. At the time, I was a bright-eyed freshmen in college, completely sheltered and naive about the world outside of my world. Quite honestly, the pageant was my first glimpse into life in the adult lane-glitzy, glamorous and absolutely jaded.

I had a great time catching up with Tina. A native of Los Angeles, she graduated from FIDM and moved to New York for a prestigious design internship at Derek Lam after graduation. She then went on to be a part of the design team at Calvin Klein and has consulted for labels such as Vera Wang and Ralph Lauren. Her work is an examination of innovative construction, distinct details, and her ability to transform her travel influences into a truly unique style. Enamored by her collection and intrigued by her background, we did a quick Q&A session to learn more about her brand and her vision. I'm so excited and happy for her!

Where did you grow up? 
TH: I grew up in Walnut, California. My childhood was traditional in that we were encouraged to only speak Mandarin at home and I was forced to take piano lessons when I was younger. My parents weren’t necessarily strict though. Now that I think of it, I got away with a lot! My parents were not immediately supportive of my choice to work in fashion. I went and got my Bachelors first in Sociology before I was allowed to study Fashion Design at FIDM. They are more supportive now that they’ve seen Jason Wu and Alexander Wang make headlines in the Chinese newspapers.

What/who was your fashion inspiration? 
TH: My first big fashion inspiration was meeting my now good friend Andrae Gonzalo. I was on the Miss Chinatown court at the time and he was a new designer who had just opened shop in Chinatown, Los Angeles and wanted the Miss Chinatown court to be in his first fashion show. When I went to his studio for the fitting I was so in awe of all the care and passion he put into his clothes. I loved the space of creativity that he had formed for himself and was instantly inspired. I decided to apply for FIDM later that year.

What type of woman embodies the Tina Huang collection aesthetics? 
TH: The Tina Huang woman is a chic sophisticate and ageless. She has an understated sex appeal and doesn’t ever look like she is trying too hard. She is definitely the kind of girl that is wearing the dress instead of the other way around.

What was the biggest hurdle in starting your own line? And how did you overcome it? 
TH: This biggest hurdle was actually deciding to start the business itself. I knew there would be a lot of roadblocks and personal sacrifices given our current economy. I had to take a step back and force myself to be courageous and go for it! Where do you see your brand in the next year? Five years? TH: In the next year, I hope the Tina Huang brand has a bigger presence in the U.S. both editorially and in the retail market. I hope to be selling to a major department store in the next five years and that the label will be a go-to brand for women who are looking for the perfect piece to add to their wardrobe.

Where can I buy the Tina Huang collection? 
TH: My e-commerce site will be up in the next couple of weeks, so you can visit www.tinahuangny.com!

List your three favorite restaurants in New York and in LA. 
TH: New York My favorite restaurants in New York are- The Lion- the best cocktails and New York ambiance! My friend Chef John DeLucie makes the best burger. It’s to die for! Izakaya Ten on 23rd and 10th Ave. I am here all the time for their tako wasa and sake specials. Lady M Confections- I’m obsessed with their Mille Crepes cake.
Los Angeles Sushi Ko-Amazing omakase! El Taurino- I’m also always craving their carne asada tacos when I’m back in NY. Gjelina- the cutest outdoor dining area.

Which fall/winter fashion trends are you most excited about? 
TH: This winter I’m really excited to wear my new men’s army green parka. I love the borrowed from the boys look. I would wear it with the Audrey Blouse with my Fall ‘11 Collection. The blouse is super feminine with lurex thread detailing and would look great juxtaposed against a masculine jacket.