Betty Tran: A cross cultural couture journey

28 Sep 2017

Author: Georgina Safe

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Since launching her fashion brand in 2012, Betty Tran has built a global empire fuelled by glamorous gowns and a commitment to giving back. The Vietnamese-Australian designer is renowned for her red carpet statements and all-out fashion fantasy, but she is also a passionate philanthropist driven by empowering women in all aspects of their lives.
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Betty Tran was 14 years old when she and her mother and sister migrated from Vietnam to Sydney in search of a better life.

“My step dad was an Australian who travelled between Australia and Vietnam and then when mum became pregnant with my second sister she decided it was time to move to Australia so my sister could have the best education possible,” says Tran.

From Vietnam to Australia

Living in Perth wasn’t easy for Tran at first: she worked in McDonald’s as a cleaner then as a manager for two years as she found her feet and learned the value of hard work and independence.

“I would finish high school around 3pm then go straight to McDonald’s at the domestic airport and work until midnight then catch a bus then a train back home,” she says.

“But I was so grateful to be offered that job, and to be able to prove to myself, that I can do anything I set my mind to. It was that hard work that’s made me who I am today.”

The birth of a global brand

 

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In just five years, Tran’s breathtaking eveningwear has catapulted the designer to success on the international fashion stage. The Betty Tran brand was launched at New York Fashion Week in 2012 before opening Los Angeles Fashion Week in 2015, showing at Malaysia Fashion Week in 2016, followed by Vietnam Fashion Week, then Milan’s prestigious Sposaltalia Collezioni and Paris Fashion Week in 2017.

Renowned for dazzling red carpet creations, Betty Tran is sold in over 17 boutiques around the world including France, Germany, Qatar, China, Japan and Italy, with stockists in Egypt, Panama and Saudi Arabia also carrying the range.

“There is no holding back now in terms of international expansion,” says Tran.

“The Betty Tran woman stands in her own league, she doesn’t blend in and she isn’t afraid to make a statement.”

The early days

Tran’s dreams of building an empire began at home in suburban Perth, where she helped her mother, a talented seamstress, manufacture garments for Australian and international brands before she decided to launch her own.

The designer was just 19 when she launched her first brand, Betty Sugar, a decade ago but severe floods in Queensland coupled with the recession saw her end up A$60,000 in debt.

“I was quite successful by the time I was 19 but I learned that business has a lot to do with luck as well,” she says. “Sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not, and unfortunately I was not.”

Tran took a number of jobs in retail to pay back every cent of her debts before launching Betty Tran in 2012. Her vision was to create affordable luxury, a gap in the market she identified while working for Italian designer brand Giorgio Armani.

“When I was at Armani as a merchandiser I could see there was a lack of accessible luxury available to women,” she says. “Couture is still perceived as high-end and inaccessible but my mission was to bring the beautiful to every woman, every day.”

A holistic approach

Today Tran produces three separate collections designed to appeal to different markets as she expands into America, Canada, Mexico and Asia.
The Betty Tran Couture collection is for red carpet and gala events, Resort is made up of ready-to-wear pieces for corporate wear and cocktail functions and Betty Tran Ever after is the designer’s dedicated bridal range. All three collections are designed to be timeless, flattering and versatile as part of Tran’s vision to empower women through their clothing.

“The Betty Tran woman aspires to be the best version of herself and I hope she inspires other women too,” says Tran. 

Tran’s new collection Reine de Passion (roughly translated as Queen of Passion) is inspired by her recent travels to Milan, Venice and Paris and features silhouettes that reference the corsetry, crinoline and bustles of the 19th century.

Structured blazers and sharp tailoring are contrasted with whispering tulles and soft silks in a range that juxtaposes strength with femininity to spectacular effect.

Cocktail dresses, skirts and jackets provide options for work events and daywear, while glamorous feathered and hand-embellished evening gowns are all about exquisite craftsmanship and an original point of view.

“We don’t do short cuts and we spend hours and hours on craftsmanship,” says Tran.

“What I love about being an Australian designer is we are so far from the rest of the world so we are not influenced by the other trends people are following overseas. We have our own approach and we are able to draw inspiration from what is around us.”

 

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Giving back

As passionate about giving back as she is about creating garments, Tran is an active philanthropist who in 2014 took eight Indigenous Australian models from the Pilbara region in Western Australia to Fashion Palette New York, giving them the opportunity to be immersed in the fashion industry.

“For me creating Betty Tran was not just about creating a brand, it was process of creating a story that helps to inspire women and shows them if they set their mind to doing something it is achievable and nothing is impossible,” she says.

The New York initiative was part of the IF Foundation’s International Leadership program, which aims to empower young women from regional WA by offering them life-changing opportunities within the arts.

The young Indigenous women took part in a photo shoot in Times Square and walked the runway before 500 people during Fashion Palette, an event showcasing emerging Australian designers in the Big Apple.

“I remember coming to Australia from Vietnam and being given this opportunity to spread my wings and now I feel like I’m in a position to be able to help to make a difference for other women,” she says.

Tran is continuing her commitment to giving back following her recently appointment as Ambassador for Australian Fashion in Vietnam by the Australian Consulate General. The role involves promoting empowerment and gender equality through education and developing a program to bring Australian culture and history to Vietnam through its universities, to build ties between the two countries.

“We want to strengthen the relationship we share and also I want to share my
knowledge about what I’ve learned along my own journey,” says Tran.

“Now my dream has become a reality I feel is really important to encourage the next generation to pursue their own dreams in the best way that they can.”

Find out more about Betty Tran.