Issue 4 out now!

1/OFF Paris’s Xuan thu Nguyen and Renée van Wijngaarden on going against the industry that made them, the relativity of happiness, and the importance of perspective.

By Naomi Barling.

We are living in unprecedented times, the entire creative industry as we knew it has been put on hold indefinitely. Here I (digitally) meet Xuan thu Nguyen and Renée van Wijngaarden, the founders of 1/OFF Paris to talk about choosing to do things differently, sharing knowledge, and working towards a more responsible industry.

Name: Xuan thu Nguyen
Profession: Designer
Location: Paris
Follow: @1offparis

Who is Xuan thu Nguyen – Tell me about yourself?

I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Holland, and have been living in Paris since 2005. I am head of design at 1/Off Paris. I have always been surrounded by design as my family once owned large-scale clothing factories in the Netherlands where I saw the scale of unwanted clothes first-hand. I started my own Couture label “Xuan” right after school, becoming an invited member of the Federation de Haute Couture in 2016. I love and admire the craftsmanship and tailoring aspect of couture. I have always believed in slow fashion and when the opportunity arose to be part of 1/OFF, it was exactly what I needed. We rework vintage overstock/deadstock into new modern pieces; there is a new exciting great challenge every day and with every garment.

How do you perceive creativity?

Creativity for me is about expression.

What is the overarching feeling you currently have?

I am thinking rationally and logically, listening, and observing.

What are the things that have fed your soul in quarantine?

Great food and my children.

What things had you forgotten you loved?

Nothing and everything all at once. I have to say that quarantine did not change a lot for me as an artist/designer, as I often work inside my atelier. I have realized that I don’t miss anything really, but the stillness has made my focus more precisely on what is important in life and what is irrelevant.

How do you think your industry will change post quarantine?

I hope the focus will be on what is relevant and everyone will be asking, “how can we participate in that honesty?”

What is your biggest fear going forward?

There is no fear. Change brings challenges, challenges bring opportunities, opportunities shape, and change the future.

What will be your biggest take away from this moment in time?

Use your common sense and think through what you do. Create work that can relate to the world and the people around you.

What’s your mission?

Showing consumers that you can create incredible luxury pieces without polluting the world and generating more waste. It was already too much waste, and now is the time to change the narrative. We can enjoy fashion, be creative, and be mindful of how we treat the world. It does not have to be one or the other.

Last words?

Believe in yourself and share your knowledge with others. We grow together.

Name: Renée van Wijngaarden
Profession: Entrepreneur
Location: Amsterdam
Follow: @1offparis

Who is Renée van Wijngaarden – Tell me about yourself?

I was born and raised in Amsterdam with my identical twin sister. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family who worked in the fashion industry. I have followed the industry from a very young age and have grown up seeing the flaws of it. I was formerly head of brand partnerships at luxury online vintage giant Vestiaire Collective, where I witnessed, daily, the scale of discarded luxury products. Seeing and understanding the ramifications of wastage in the fashion world made me passionate about doing things differently and searching for an alternative. After my job at Vestiaire Collective, I knew what kind of brand I wanted to start and how: wanted to use these discarded clothes and give them a new life.

How do you perceive the meaning of creativity?

Creativity for me is about changing perspectives and expressing your own.

What is the overarching feeling you currently have?

If I am honest there have been a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes I see lots of opportunities and possibilities and sometimes I am stuck and just not sure where everything is going. I am currently in the up-feeling mood, as we are busy with bringing 1/OFF to the next chapter.

What has fed your soul in quarantine?

Taking time to see what is working for 1/OFF and what we need to change to take us to the next level. Re-organizing internally and finding creative solutions. I have also started painting again. Painting for me is a quick win; it distracts my mind from what is going on in the outside world, no phone, just music, and a paintbrush. I am luckily quarantined with my fun boyfriend and my lovely twin sister who lives beneath me.

What had you forgotten you loved?

Nothing really, I am so passionate about what we were doing with 1/OFF that this time has just ignited that drive even more. I am however really missing my friends and family, missing cuddling them and spending quality time. I knew before corona that I loved them but not being able to be with them physically is hard.

How do you think your industry will change post quarantine?

I think this time of confinement and being forced to slow down will give people time to rethink the structures of our industry. Hopefully, the big players in the industry will acknowledge that the production side is as important as the selling side and will be forced to change the old systems and business models. Hopefully, this time reminds us all of the importance of collaboration and the importance of people’s health and wellbeing.

What is your biggest fear going forward?

I do not have any fears, I am more focused on opportunities; it is time that the industry changes and takes radical actions that benefit everyone.

What will be your biggest take away from this moment in time?

Happiness is something relative, being able to step back and put things in perspective is so important, and being open to change will help you find the happiness you need at different stages of life. You have to be adaptable.

What’s your mission?

Building a brand that helps reduce the waste of overstock and deadstock clothing and fabrics. Bringing creativity and uniqueness back to the industry and inspiring people to rethink fashion in a fun way that does not continue to destroy our planet.

Last words?

Let’s work together for a better, more creative, fun, and responsible industry.

Portraits by Daniel Archer