How I Became A Fashion Designer
My name is Kevin Tung and I am a fashion designer living in New York City. When I tell people i’m a designer they’re usually very confused as to what I actually do. They often imagine me running around with scissors, cutting fabric and sewing samples like Project Runway. They get even more confused when they visit my office & just watch me sit at a desk all day so here’s my story — from how I became a fashion designer to what a fashion designer does.
I was born in Flushing, Queens to a middle class Asian-American family. My interest in fashion began around high school when I noticed my friends raving about brands like A Bathing Ape, Supreme, Stussy, and Nike. I also became fans of those brands but could not afford them.
Then one day at a Dragon Boat festival in Flushing, this girl came up to me and said “Hey, I designed that shirt you’re wearing”.
“You made it?” , I replied.
“No, i’m a fashion designer. I work for American Eagle. I design their T-shirts”.
This innocent moment would change my life forever.
After I got home, I went on hours online researching fashion designers. I saw documentaries of Nigo, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Ricardo Tisci, and these really opened up my eyes to what a future in fashion design could have in store for me.
The next day at School, I told my guidance counselor Mrs. Canty “I really want to be a Fashion Designer but I don’t know where to start”. She told me about the pre-college summer programs at FIT and that if I were interested, I could apply. I was definitely interested.
I went home and immediately signed up to their beginner Fashion design. I would then take FIT’s pre-college classes every summer from then on. In my senior year, I landed an internship at Kevork Kiledjian in NYC. When applying for college I only applied for 2 schools — FIT & Parsons. Thankfully, I got into FIT.
— College —
I couldn’t be more excited when I got to FIT. Here I was, a young kid at one of the best Fashion Design schools in the world! I knew that every year FIT & Parsons held a design competition called the Fusion Fashion Show. The school’s top 15 designers would compete to win the title of best design school & winner would take home a cash prize. That year, I designed a collection inspired by the Japanese film “Grave of the Fireflies”. Thankfully I was one of the final 15 to be selected for team FIT! I couldn’t be more excited. With only 3 months to make the actual clothes, I spent countless nights cutting and sewing. This is the only time in my fashion career where it felt like Project Runway — wild inspirations, crazy avant garde designs, and making everything by hand. When the show finally came, team FIT won with Peter Do taking the first prize.
For my sophomore year I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Here I became enchanted with Roman art, the Italian Renaissance, and European history. Florence is like a living museum — everything is so beautifully designed and well preserved. For our final project, we were fortunate to be able to work with Ferragamo’s creative director, Massimilano Giornetti and design a collection inspired by Africa. I designed a collection inspired by the history of South Africa based around a mosaic print I made from over 100 unique images of the country’s history & nature.
I finished up my junior & senior years designing a collection fusing modern art & Chinese costume, specializing in Knitwear design, winning 2nd place in a JCPenney design competition, and landing an Internship at Milly.
— Now —
The summer after College I worked as a design assistant for Milly before working freelance for companies like Aeropostale and Republic Clothing Group. I am now an Assistant Designer at Republic Clothing & specialize in designing jackets & bottoms for T Tahari.
The real fashion world is very different than what you see on TV shows like project runway. Very rarely are we thinking and designing fantastical costumes to be worn once (or never!). We don’t spend hours sketching & making the perfect sample by hand. We spend a lot of time analyzing trends and doing customer research. Most artwork is done with Adobe Illustrator & Microsoft Excel and we spend hours fitting the garments on models to try to make sure you, the end customer feels & looks good when wearing it.
I also launched a men’s label in 2016- Nomad. It’s been mainly focused on graphic T-shirts & hoodies but I want to pivot it into something new. For 2020, I am reshaping Nomad to be that brand that envelops my design philosophy — to push the boundaries of design while being extremely wearable.
To me, A fashion designer’s job is to work with the sales & production teams to give the customer what they want at the best price with the best fabric possible. What I love about fashion (and design in general) is that it combines the beauty of art with the practicality of engineering. Here’s a leather jacket I designed:
Thanks for reading my story! Please feel free to ask me any questions, I’ll try my best to answer.