I sat down with Steve Nguyen, the art director of print for StyleCircle, to plunge into a deeper understanding of his team’s motivations for the creative endeavours explored in Issue 05 - “Voices.” As a third year fashion student at Ryerson University, Steve plays an imperative role within the Style Circle magazine team through decision making, managing, and content creation. The latest StyleCircle Issue 05 release party encompassed the theme “Voices” through an extensive array of mediums from spoken word, to interpretive dance, physical installations, and editorial prints from the issue 05 print. I had the pleasure of attending the event and I experienced the beautifully executed launch in a space that brought people together to reflect on/challenge how we perceive fashion. Steve breaks down the socio-political context behind the theme of issue 05 – unsettling dominant discourses that are embedded in the traditional perspectives of fashion.
Brooke: What was your creative process behind your editorials?
Steve: I think my processes are always very collaborative, because how things are structured this year, my role is the art director of print so I foresee graphics and I'm in charge of editorials here and there, so what usually happens is that each magazine encompasses a specific theme. This year’s theme was voices, questioning the dominant discourses and normative views on how people perceive fashion, through having a more sociopolitical context within fashion and how that impacts the way we live and the way we see the world.
Brooke: The sociopolitical theme became really clear to me within the “I Never Ask For It” installation at the Style Circle launch, where did that idea stem from?
Steve: Yes I actually helped with that one as well. We actually collaborated with the Ryerson Centre for safer sex and sexual violence support, who basically provides support for people who experience these traumas and navigate them in terms of healing. They also deal with enforcing safer sex, so for example they have events where you can discuss/listen in on contraception options - they’re a very amazing centre. They actually hosted an exhibition in October(ish), called “I Never Ask For It”, which essentially highlights people who experience sexual assault and sexual violence in contrast to what they wear. A lot of people utilize what they wear as not an - excuse, but rather a justification of that notion, when really it should never matter what anyone chooses to wear, as sexual violence should never be justified by what someone chooses to wear. We wanted to highlight that in a very physical sense that encompasses that theme. This issue’s theme is a very smart topic as it is very open-ended, and draws from a lot of personal stories in addition to bringing these topics to the table to discuss and feed off of each other. Ideas that aren’t necessarily approved for editorials are often still used as a web article as a form of continuation of the narratives. I’m the type of person who really likes to listen to other people, as listening han help you acknowledge other perspectives that you don’t necessarily have, and because of the specific topic, it can be very sensitive through the photographers, writers etc. involved who can put a lot of their personal stories into it, and I would never want to take that personal narrative from them as it is essentially their story, I made it more of a “how can I help you in terms of elevating what you already want to convey,” giving them a platform to express themselves to the best of their abilities, ensuring that their voices are heard. For all editorials we create sample mood boards to encompass the visual identity of what it’s going to look like, what models we’ll use, the clothing, because at the end of the day it's a fashion focused magazine, so we want to emphasize the clothes. In addition to managing all of this with a budget, at the time we had a pretty small budget which left us being very resourceful with what we already had, such as using models as friends, using my personal clothing or borrowing others, and buying and returning items like stylists do etc.
Brooke: Being the director of print, do you take an assertive position in how most editorials are executed?
Steve: I definitely sit back and allow the creative director to do what they want to do, and whatever the end product is I’m usually content with it, but I think the whole creative process is a form of trust, trusting these people that they can do their jobs, and also can have their input and style in what they do, because otherwise it just looks the same, every single editorial, which again goes against the theme “Voices”, showcasing student talent. I did a suiting shoot, commenting on different bodies and how they feel when they’re in the suit as a way to comment on suits as an aspirational uniform for people to aspire to a certain way whether it be gender-based, class-based etc. We wanted to do a shoot based on the look of Forbes magazine, encompassing that very business-oriented, CEO style. Another shoot we did called Visual Code was based on how people perceive others based on the way they dress, already creating fake personas or preconceived notions of how people dress in correlation to a type of personality and create an archetype. So we asked the models before we started to write one of these fake personas, not of yourself, but either as a joke, or just out of character or something they aspire to become. One example was the stereotypical guy with a beard, who drinks microbrew beers and listens to indie music, or an aspiring actress from Brazil who has three estates. It was interesting to see how can we take this personality and style it in a way that makes sense with the personality that it is, which in turn also acts as a reflexive period of “why do I choose those garments based on that personality.” I think with this issue we ultimately really wanted to change people’s idea of what fashion is, as most people visualize it as a very frivolous concept. People don’t realize that we all participate in fashion whether we’re conscious about it or not, you don’t have to know designers, you just have to know that you wear clothes, and that clothes in themselves also exude a certain type of power.
Brooke: Where do you personally find inspiration from?
Steve: I find a lot of inspiration from emotions, and in addition I think my personal style is more in terms of practicality, as I already have a set style. People know me as the “red guy” because I wear a lot of red, along with a lot of primaries. It’s definitely transitioned from aesthetics holding a dominant priority shifting to practicality being my main concern, as I’ve already dealt with the aesthetic side of my personal style in previous years.
Brooke: What one piece of clothing would you identify yourself with?
Steve: This one red coat, that I wear a lot. I’ve had it since high school, and it was one of my first major purchases that I bought for myself. I wore it to death because I associate myself with the color red a lot, and it’s one of my favourite colours, so I use it as an excuse to wear it. I also feel as if i can throw it on and beyond the red coat, look unpresentable, however people will still compliment me on days like that as people have a resignation with that particular colour that makes it appear as if i’m presentable.
It was a pleasure to interview Steve, to learn of his personal views on fashion, along with the imperative role he plays on Style Circle’s team. His perspective exhibits that any given individual partakes in fashion, and that an individual's personal style is a physical form of communication, “exuding” a form of power. To connect emotions to one’s style is an additional feature that Steve noted – an individual can convey feelings and emphasize emotions through the exuded power of clothing.