NGUYEN THI LE THU – A START-UP STORY BORN FROM LOVE
Love is magical, an enchanting force that charms the heart of men, the everlasting inspiration for the poetic world, and the key to the transformation of one’s life and career. In the case of businesswoman Le Thu, heeding that irresistible call of “love” has led her on a new start-up journey.
When love ignites the passion for fashion
Greetings Ms. Le Thu. As I recall, last time you appeared on the cover of the Businesswoman Magazine as the Director of Marketing & Communications at FV Hospital, and now, here we are, interviewing you as Founder of the Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy fashion brand. Can you share with us the turn of events that has brought you to fashion – a field of beauty and creativity, which, per se, has little relevance to your previous work in the medical field?
Although I’ve been working at a medical facility for the past 15 years, my work was not medical in nature. The medical field, as does any other work area, also needs a certain amount of marketing and publicity work to maintain and develop its business prospects, and that is what I come in. When it comes to the medical field, most people would relate to dramatic images like the surgery room, the ambulance rushing, the severe diseases and medications, all of which seem to distract us from a more important part in life, emotions – the catalyst that drives us to care, to sympathize, to love and even to sacrifice for each other. Now with what I’ve experienced in the fashion field so far, it turns out that fashion also draws inspiration from our love for beauty, for life and all that is around us, and it dawns on me that, whether it’s medical, fashion or cuisine – another field in which I’m doing business, aren’t they all built upon a single foundation called “love”?
On the other hand, a “chronic disease” of Le Thu, known to all who knows her, is that … I always want to be beautiful and complimented for that. Every day I would “mix & match” myself, Le Thu-style, and people are awed by it. Then before I know it, I’ve become the “fashion consultant” for many (Grinning). I’ve realized that a lot of people still don’t know how to dress themselves, they’re reluctant to change their style, fearing that they might not be fit for a certain type of clothing or fashion trend simply because they “think” so… Being someone who always respects the emotions of those around her, who nurtures her “love” for everything, and who always seeks to inspire people to be beautiful just as herself, so have I found myself embracing the field of fashion.
But perhaps that is not enough to light the sparkling inspiration for such an intriguing fashion brand “Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy”, with the slogan “LaMODE inspired by LOVE”, is it?
Exactly. The deepest and greatest inspiration for my fashion brand is “love” itself, in its most romantic definition.
I was love-struck with a French man who is now my husband, and the feeling was mutual. We were drawn towards each other to the point of defying all prejudice and obstacles. We have been through every argument and conflict, and there were times when we thought of parting ways. But then love, a powerful bond as it’s always been, brought us back together, and now we’re inextricable. Through his love letters that was filled with affectionate words, I suddenly realized who I was and what I desired. “I love the way you dress, how you prepare yourself before going anywhere…, I love the way you see and feel about beauty… I am proud to accompany you to wherever maybe, for there is something about you that is elegant and classy, but charming and intriguing at the same time.” He would often call me, with much affection, “Lady Sexy”, so it’s only proper that I also gave him a title, “Mr. Crazy”. And so, Mr. Crazy and Lady Sexy came to know each other through each experience in life, exploring the world in their own way: adventurous and romantic, elegant and chic, but also withdrawn and humble.
And just as my husband loves my dressing style, fashion has unknowingly become the “witness” of our love, the bonding agent that strengthens and elevates the romantic story of Mr. Crazy and Lady Sexy. Our life is infused with the feelings of love, and fashion is present in every moment of it. This week we can be putting on sportive clothing and riding across the fragrant lavender fields in the Southern France countryside, and next week we can be speed rowing in our swimsuits amidst the vast blue of the Mediterranean Sea, or the date nights when I get all charming in my backless dress, dining with my man in a luxurious Michelin restaurant. Then every weekend, we would change into our linen shirts or other loose clothing and get together with our friends and our children in the lovely garden, but when Monday morning comes, Mr. Crazy and Lady Sexy will look totally different in their neat and formal suits, attending meetings and handling tasks at work.
The endless inspiration from our own love story has urged me to do something for the calling of Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy. We have even registered it as an exclusive brand, so that it would, at the very least, be the witness to our unique love. Aside being a fashion brand, Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy is also the name of our villa in Saigon, our castle in France, our wine brand, and many products to come, and despite being rather long for a brand name, it’d be a brand name only we possess. Like an eternal breath, Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy is not merely fashion, but the color, the language, the chiming rhythm, the radiant light that emits from deep within the soul of one who cherishes and adores beauty.
With an inspiration fueled by your emotion, which is intangible in nature, how do you suppose your fashion brand can bring about the same vibe in the customer?
Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy is all about the lingering sensations that come with such a look of the eye or a touch of the hand. The material, the seam line, the cutting style, etc. all are designed and created with “love” for the tiniest of details. With love as the ultimate guide, it is my desire for anyone who puts on a Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy piece to feel “love” in the sincerest way.
The valuable moments in one’s life can be recorded in many ways, and fashion is one of the most “trendy and personal” way to do so, while also highlighting one’s personality. Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy was created with one love, but who knows how many more beautiful loves will thrive on that, on the harmony that we share? If you really believe in love like I do, you will find love at every turn in your life, in the things that seemed so meaningless before.
So, in your imagination, how would you sketch the image of the muse for Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy fashion brand?
The muse for Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy will be a lady in her early thirties, the golden age for an independent woman with a stable job, a life of her own decision and freedom to pursue her own desires. Any woman can become the Lady Sexy as described in the romantic notes of Mr Crazy. Likewise, any man can be crazily romantic for the woman he loves. There will be no default definition of a woman’s traits in the Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy sets of clothes. Beneath that gentle surface could be an adamant resolution, and hidden behind that elegant poise could be a whirlpool of pride, challenging any approaching beholder. A bewitching aura lurks underneath the subtle lines on her vestment. A tinge of mischief, a hint of lewdness… but never think lesser of her. More than anyone, she understands the power of charm. She is all but innocent and naïve. She is indeed a classy and attractive lady, with her savvy experience, the insights of herself and even, her illusions…
Fashion, just as love, is ageless, and possesses no common standards, but rather diversifies as much as every one person is different from another. Let me borrow the lyrics of the quite popular English song “Just the way you are” to describe a woman of Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy style: independent, confident, brave, adventurous, diverse in the taste of art, but also no less resolute in the eye of her man, or… the man she wants to charm.
The boundless inspirational trendsetter for ladies
With your experience in multiple business fields over the years, what are the advantages and challenges for you now in fashion?
For me, fashion is nothing but familiar, but doing business in fashion is entirely new to me. All it took was a whim, an idea, and the name “Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy”. In preparation, around 18 months ago, I started taking online fashion courses from the London College of Fashion (University of the Arts London) and digging seriously into the fashion business models in the world, especially in Paris, New York and London. Then, I continued by approaching and exchanging with friends who are doing fashion business in Paris, both wholesale and retail, researching the domestic market, contacting several designers both domestic and overseas, attending exhibitions and fairs for materials, accessories and equipment relating to the fashion technology in many places in the world, coming to wholesale markets and factories to get a hands-on experience of the materials, prices and tons of other knowledge from threads and buttons to material processing, printing on material… This entire process of learning and researching with near-zero experience to begin with was perhaps my greatest challenge when establishing the brand. There were, honestly, times when I felt as if I was lost at sea, trying to find a suitable business model that could get my message across, especially in an already harshly competitive fashion business with new brands springing up like mushrooms after a rain. But then again, having been through the vicissitudes of life, what is a challenge to me but an opportunity to see how far I can break through this time. As for my advantages? Nothing else but the “loves” that I have, the appreciation of a resilient and ageless beauty stretching through the years of my life.
The deeper I dug, the more passionate I became, and finally in April, 2019, I decided to establish the company and begin a start-up conquest at the age of 50, as my life has almost reached the point of indulging in my accomplishments. The story of fashion came to me naturally, just like love. I’d dive headfirst in it and find out later, no matter what potential hardships or costs in time and money, for every love is an exciting experience, and the sweet fruition of it, however little, always brings so much joy and happiness, doesn’t it?
How about your fashion crew, how did you put them together and how well are you working with them now?
Everything comes with fate and luck. And I was very lucky to have met the partners who are willing to cooperate and put their faith in my idea and passion unconditionally. Had it not been for their support, I would never have even begun to make this dream come true. They are fashion designers with profound experience on the international stage, they are graphic designers, producers, advertising companies, and even some colleagues of mine back in the FV hospital… They all claim to be charmed by me (Grinning). I receive their help and cooperation with much gratitude, though they humbly say they’re only working in Le Thu’s spirit. They’d spin me around all day, they like it, then they hate it, they approve today, but revoke the next one, but in the end, they always have my back. Perhaps they find in me the excitement, the willingness to put your thoughts in action, to face hardship head-on, and maybe some naiveté in this field of fashion. The bottom-line is, I did get off on a very lucky start with this brand.
As mentioned above, fashion is tied closely to emotions, but when it comes to business, logic is essential. Have you thought of the need to harmonize between these two elements?
The philosophy of Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy is “LaMODE inspired by LOVE”. As sentimental and emotional as it may sound, it is in fact the culmination of utter logic. Business also needs emotions, inevitably, and the question is not if, but to what extent such emotions should affect it in order to make the most logical decision. Business is not a game, so it’s important to know when and how to use these two elements, either separately or jointly, so that never become “players” with no regards for the consequences. In addition, we also put an emphasis on the “Inspiring” element, for ourselves and those who put on a Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy design, who, in turn, will inspire those around them. People are always motivated by a positive mindset, an energetic optimism and the feeling of love, and therefore realize the true values of life. My mission is to tell my story of love, and multiply until it becomes an overwhelming inspiration that helps everyone realize that: You can do anything with love.
As far as I’m informed, your brand is preparing for its very first Summer Collection. How does that make you feel? And what is the message that you wish to convey in this Collection?
After a year of experiment, in order to get a better grasp of my potential customers’ demand, desire and product reception, I decided to official present the Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy brand, starting in the Ho Chi Minh City market. The Covid-19 pandemic turned our plans upside down, but we still managed to introduce Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy’s very first collection called Summer 2020 (instead of the usual Spring Summer). Despite coming out in the summer, this first collection of ours serves more as a brand-defining collection with various designs: elegant, eye-catching, open-minded, appealing, with many models to choose from and combine. From this collection, you can choose an outfit for a summer vacation in the countryside or by the beach, an office suit for the hot tropical climate, as well as pieces that are easy to “mix & match” for the many festivals and proms to come. With a breath of Saigon, of Paris, of Venise, and a little bit of Southern France Luberon, Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy is the incarnation of the romantic, gentle, elegant and realistic fashion style.
How do you feel seeing your “brainchild” forming and bearing its very first designs?
I have a hobby of taking a “selfie” every morning with the outfit I’ve chosen for the day and posting it on my personal page to “brag” with my friends, and now it’s just got more exciting that I can put on my own designs. Wherever I go, people keep complimenting me and asking about my outfit, and they all gasp in awe when I proudly respond, “it’s my brand”.
My ambition is for Mr. Crazy & Lady Sexy to become the favorite designer for ladies all over the world. Each and every design of the brand is a work of art for me, I will protect and cherish it, and nothing will make me happier than for it to be recognized and adored. The moment I laid my hand on the first “works”, I was filled with pride. I was able to turn the abstract concept of “love” into an item of tangible, even luxurious value that everyone desires to possess. And no one but myself had the honor of putting on those designs firsthand, to feel how good and suitable they were.
Women are beautiful just the way they are!
Being an adorer of beauty and having created a fashion brand for those like you, how do you define the beauty of a “businesswoman”?
Women have always been called the “fair” sex, so all you need to do is be yourself, live up to your passion, love up to your desire, and smile at everything. Fashion always finds its way into the hectic and burdensome spin of life, so be like me, take care of your outfit the way you take care of other business. Put together a beautiful flower vase that you’d love to gaze upon, cook a delicious meal that many would applaud you for, organize a successful event or win a big contract that would help your business grow. In everything she does, a businesswoman’s beauty should come from her decision and her effort to become the best version of herself. Beauty is also the benevolence and willingness to share one’s knowledge, the way the man you love falls for you and makes you more beautiful day by day. In short, just be beautiful, it’s the right of every woman!
So in your opinion, what does a woman need to come through in order to learn to cherish and take care of their unique beauty?
Life has always been full of colors, there’s joy and sorrow, ecstasy and agony, success and failure, take them all in. Sometimes we’re too caught up in our dreams and optimism that we just forget the aspects of life that could drown us down to the bottom of sadness, but what then, it’d only help us discover ourselves, to get up on our feet again, to smile again, and to love life as it should be. Discover a new thing in yourself every day, be it good or bad, so that you learn more about yourself, know what you want, complete yourself and make yourself proud. Live for yourself and true to your personality, that is the greatest respect one could pay to life, which helps you discover and cherish your beauty.
But how about a businesswoman whose only two friends are “occupied” and “stressed”? What should they do to be more beautiful?
Well, make fashion as occupied as you are (Grinning). Just like when you’re getting ready as a bride, why not give more thoughts into what to wear for each occasion, big or small. There are times when I just change from one outfit to another, combining with various shoe models, putting on my lipstick and waltz around looking at myself in the mirror, wondering if I look good. Life may well never cease to be hectic, but you must save some precious time to feel your body and soul anyway. Sometimes it’s just a chuckle at a well-chosen outfit or an attractive lipstick color is already a win in making yourself more beautiful. Be as “occupied” indulging yourself as you are “occupied” with your work, and the results that you reap on either aspect would soar over your expectations. Don’t love yourself just a little bit, but a big one. For the only good thing a woman should do is to love herself, her face, shape, personality, career and the freedom to choose what is rightfully hers. Once you’ve learnt to love yourself, you’ll finally see how beautiful you are, and that beauty that comes from “knowing thyself, loving thyself” is an ageless one that shines through time and age.
Speaking of fashion in particular, what would a beauty that comes from an outfit suitable for your style, shape,…express about you?
It’s simple, fashion comes hand in hand with women, or rather, what the fair sex wishes to convey and honor, their unique traits, or even their thoughts and emotions. Trend chasers can hardly be considered modern as vintage lovers can hardly be considered obsolete. Fashion is not just about the looks, but also what is inside, the high and noble core values. For me, I understand every millimeter of my body, I touch it every day and challenge myself with all kinds of outfits. For fashion is not only about finding a good match, but also the courage to do what you like and speak out who you are. The fashion that I choose will always be “Le Thu fashion”, the flow that I am most comfortable and confident to move in, to express my way of living. A Le Thu who loves with all she’s got, sexy to the extreme but lacks not the elegance and nobility, that is Mr. Crazy’s definition of Lady Sexy.
Thank you for the interview!
LOVE LETTER from Mr CRAZY
… each time I see you I find you so beautiful, I can never cease to look at you. You are pretty, very pretty, with a type of beauty that is very rare, I love your face, your eyes, your mouth, your high bone cheeks and your wonderful smile, the way you hold your head, the way you walk, the small of your back. I love the way you dress, the way you prepare yourself, the way you walk and the way you talk. I love your intelligence, your meticulousness when you work. I love the fact that you are daring, adventurous, unfazed by anything or anyone. I love your taste, your sense of beauty, your love of flowers, the way you decorate home, the small details that are so important. I love the fact that I can take you anywhere, that you are classy and distinguished but also attractive and interesting. I love the way you take care of me, of my clothes, of the way I look, of my sleep, love the way you kiss me, and the way you look at me. I love when you laugh, when we share a private joke, or when you find something funny and just smile, amused, love when you dance, especially when you dance for me…
I love when you are next to me, when I am around you, when you are not far from me …
LOVE NOTE from Lady SEXY
“… Je t’ai toujours trouvé très handsome, très séduisant et extrêmement intelligent. Tu as de larges connaissances et tu vis avec passion. Tu m’as donné tant de choses que je n’osais pas rêver. Avec toi et grâce à toi, j’ai découvert moi- même. Tu m’as aidé à surmonter tous nos problèmes. Quand j’ai besoin de toi, tu es toujours là. Je peux tout partager avec toi, mes peines, mes soucis, mes problèmes, ma joie et mon bonheur …”
1. What is Lady Sexy’s perspective of love?
Love is the irresistible longing for each other, the desire to be at the other’s side, and the unconditional love and care for each other.
2. What do you love most in your Mr. Crazy?
How “Crazy” he is.
3. What did your man tell his Lady Sexy about you doing business in fashion?
He kept complimenting me: “I don’t know how you did it, but everything is amazing.”
Text: Jenni Võ, Hồng Đặng | Photography: Morgan Palun-ré & Clément Puig | Stylish: Lady Sexy | Outfits: Mr Crazy & Lady Sexy | Designer: Khang Phạm