Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Combining business and art to create jobs
June 23, 2016

Participating in The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur competitions during her three years at Culver has led May (Hong Duyen V) Nguyen ’14 to the point where she may soon be creating jobs for artists in her native Vietnam.

Nguyen has combined her entrepreneurial spirit with her artistic background to develop a special line of wearable art that will feature scenes from Dartmouth College, where she will be a junior this fall. Called “Artwear,” the special line of clothing would be available to alumni, students, and parents, she said, and each person would be able to choose their favorite site on campus.

“They will be custom-made,” Nguyen said. People will be able to select the article of clothing and download a digital photo of their favorite campus location. Special software would develop a “photo painting” of the scene and a Vietnamese artist would then paint the scene on the fabric, using a special acrylic paint that will stand up to multiple washings, she explained.

May Nguyen holds a dress with a scene from Dartmouth College painted on it.

May Nguyen holds a dress with a scene from Dartmouth College painted on it.

The basic concept came to Nguyen during her long plane trip home. While Vietnam has a vibrant hand-painted clothing industry, the clothing at Dartmouth was simple block letters on T-shirts and sweatshirts. By creating the custom hand-painted clothing, Nguyen would be able to offer a new, very personal line of clothing to her customers while providing jobs for artists in her homeland.

“Since the clothing would be custom-made, they (the artists) would get paid more than do now,” she said. Then she used her photography and other artistic talents to create a dress featuring a Dartmouth “campus-scape” of the Baker Library and Dartmouth Hall as a sample.

Nguyen took her Artwear concept and crafted a presentation for the fall Pitch competition, which is an entrepreneurial competition run by the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN), the Digital Arts Leadership and Innovation (DALI) Lab, and Neukom Institute.

Sixty applications were initially received and 20 groups or individuals were selected to make two-minute presentations to the panel of six judges. Nguyen won the competition, which came with a cash prize and assistance from DEN, DALI, and the Neukom Institute students to get her start-up running.

Nguyen said her Culver experiences definitely helped her craft her winning presentation. Her interest in business and economics was spurred by the AP Economics course taught by Andy Dorrel. Her participation in the Miclot Business Competition (first runner-up), the Elevator Competition (won), and the Inspire Us Video Competition (won) gave her insight on how to prepare her presentation. And her year on the speech team helped her craft what she would be saying.

Work on the Artwear website is continuing, she said. It is a little more complicated because it will involve features that will allow the customer to select the article of clothing they would like painted, the size, and download photos of their favorite spot on campus. Nguyen is using her photography skills to build up a library of images that people can select from as well.

After a brief stop in Culver, Nguyen returned to Vietnam to do a summer internship with a private equity firm. She will also be setting up the Vietnamese side of the Artwear business. She will return to Dartmouth in September and is planning to officially launch the business by the end of the year.

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Posted in Alumni Fine Arts International
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