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College of Health and Human Sciences

Designing a career: student fashions her first collection

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mai Tran

Mai Tran with her bridal designs in Justin Hall

In 1997, Mai Tran picked up the paintbrush that would eventually start her journey into fashion design.

Fourteen years later, Tran, a senior in apparel textiles and marketing, is creating her first complete fashion collection called Petals, which includes a bridal gown and four bridesmaid dresses.

"When I first came to the U.S. from Vietnam, my art teacher recommended I take some of his classes after he saw me paint," Tran said. "I didn't know that I had art skills then, and I hadn't set my mind on fashion yet."

After moving to Salina and attending high school there, Tran, daughter of Nam Phuong Tran and Lan Ly Thi, started to take her art into fashion. She enrolled at K-State her freshman year and attended classes on the Salina campus.

Tran, who graduates in May, is in an independent study class this spring under her adviser, Joycelyn Falsken, assistant professor of apparel textiles and interior design. The class has given her the opportunity to create Petals.

"It's always good to contribute to the university and see how students are able to learn and grow," Falsken said. "Mai wanted to take her learning a step beyond producing one or two garments; she wanted to do a whole line. Students are always welcome to go beyond expectations at K-State. This shows other students what is possible."

Tran credits Falsken's help in making her collection possible.

"Professor Falsken is beyond an adviser," Tran said. "She cares more about you and what you can do to improve yourself."

An interior design portfolio inspired Tran's current bridal collection, which includes cocktail styles and an elegant asymmetrical gown. The bridesmaid dresses are in black, while the bridal gown, which she is still working on, is in traditional white.

"I don't look at other fashion designs for inspiration," Tran said. "Instead, I look at different shapes, objects and building structures."

Tran is serving an internship this semester with David's Bridal in Salina and hopes to show her collection to them as a final portfolio.

"I have learned a lot there," she said. "I work in the alterations department and they have a lot of construction tricks that have helped a lot with my collection."

Tran wants to gain more experience in the fashion design field and would like to open her own design shop.

"After graduation I want to work for some fashion design companies," she said. "I'm comfortable with my designs but there is always something more for me to learn in the fashion industry."

Tran went back to Vietnam last summer. Her motivation for success stems from the memories of her home country.

"In Vietnam I saw kids on the street begging for food and money to help their family instead of staying in school to learn how to read and write," Tran said. "I saw houses smaller than a college dorm room that provided for five family members. My dreams of opening my own store became my goal after that trip."

Prepared by K-State communications and marketing

This article was posted on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, and is filed under College News, Interior Design and Fashion Studies.