Tina Van (12) has always enjoyed creating art, whether through her drawings of fancy ball gowns and costumes, or by hand-sewing an entire dress within a matter of a few weeks. Although Van has been passionate about fashion for a while, it wasn’t until the fifth grade that she actually started to design her own clothes. “It started with a simple floral dress with a tied back. I had some old fabric lying around in my basement, so I picked up one of my old designs and decided to make it come to life,” Van explains. Learning how to design her own clothes allowed her the opportunity to customize outfits to her body and to her own personal style. “I loved drawing clothes, but hated them when it came to me because when I was younger, I was tall and skinny so a lot of clothes didn’t fit me. As I began to sew, my love for fashion grew because with the ability to design my own clothes, I could tailor them to fit my body,” states Van.
Van designs clothes and sells them on her Instagram account, @identitiy_apparel9.24, where she custom makes a variety of different clothes for people of all shapes and sizes. One can expect to find unique and colorful garments that are sure to catch the eye. “Anyone can buy clothes from me by messaging me through Instagram. All they need to do is send me a message with what they want and any specific requests or requirements.” Based on what is requested, Van explains that the amount of time it takes to make a certain garment could vary. “Depending on the article of clothing, the details that it requires, and the amount of homework I have, it can take me up to a day or up to a week.”
Although the experience of selling her hand-made items and running her own business has attracted some criticism, for the most part Van admires the love and appreciation she has gained from those around her. “I have received so much support from family members, friends, mentors, teachers, and strangers. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing so much of what I love to do. I have received criticism about my business and the clothing I make, but it has helped me grow and motivated me to do better.” Along with starting her own business and creating art for others to enjoy, Van has reached another important milestone in her designing career. On February 15 of this year, Van won second place at the school talent show, FHS Has Talent. Van recalls the entire experience as extremely rewarding and an incredibly worthwhile experience. “I did not think that I was going to win second place. I didn’t think I was going to win anything at all. There were so many talented performers. Winning second place was surprising, but it felt great. I couldn’t have done it without my models.” One model in particular, Kira Busch (12), was especially helpful to Van, as she was the makeup artist for all of the other models. “I did five makeup looks including my own,” recalls Busch. “That meant coming up with ideas on the spot and working with a wide range of skin types. However, I was with my friends so it was a lot of fun.” As a long-time friend and close supporter, Busch was happy to be a part of Van’s fashion show. “It was lots of fun. I love promoting Tina whenever [I can] because she is brilliant and I can see her doing great things with design in the future,” says Busch. Looking back on Van’s incredible development as a designer, Busch could see the immense amount of determination and work she put into all of her pieces for the fashion show. “I’ve never met anyone like her. She started all on her own, watching Youtube videos to learn how to sew well and then incorporat[ing] her own creativity once she had her skill mastered.” Busch especially admires the example Van is setting for those who also aim to achieve their dreams. “She’s breaking up barriers by building her own business, considering she’s female, Vietnamese, and comes from an immigrant family. Tina is extremely talented and I wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
Tina Van is the perfect example of what hard work and self-motivation can create. Staying true to what she wanted to do, Van ultimately took her love for fashion and turned it into a business all on her own, proving that she is capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to. Her advice to anyone out there who also dreams of turning their goals into reality, is to simply “stay true to what you believe in. There will always be people that will hate what you create, but their opinions can only help you grow if you continue to believe in what you’re doing. Always be open to new ideas and different styles because you may end up liking it.” So the next time you’re looking for a stylish crop top or a fun pair of overalls, try contacting Van. She just might become your new go-to designer.