The topic of Pacific Northwest style can be a humorous anecdote for some and a point of agitation for others. After all, our casual-first mindset does not scream high fashion, and the abundance of scenic activities just a short drive away make outdoor attire a priority. But for a fashion-forward few, and a growing number of local trendsetters, the idea of fashion in our fair city is starting to evolve.
Case in point is Seattle-based Maiden Noir, founded by designer Nin Truong, former landscape architect, that has found international success with its seasonal contemporary lifestyle collections for men and women. Founded in 2005, Maiden Noir started as a creative project among Truong’s various endeavours but quickly grew into a full-time pursuit and earned a cult following by stockists and trendsetters in fashion’s epicenters, including New York, Los Angeles and Japan.
The brand’s business model is unlike many in Seattle as Truong visits Tokyo several times each year to source premium Japanese textiles, which give his designs their rich color and patterns, and work with his longtime producers and manufacturers who help bring his concepts to life. When he’s not making the rounds at international fashion weeks and market shows, he develops concepts and fine tunes his designs out of the company’s creative studio in “Japantown” (located in the Chinatown/International-District), situated above the DADADA Gallery space which doubles as Maiden Noir’s first retail store that opened in 2016.
For his recently launched spring/summer collection, Truong was inspired by the work of Roberto Burle Marx, the mid-20th century Brazilian landscape architect and artist. Aptly titled “Jardim de Flor” the designs feature strikingly colorful hues that are expertly grounded with earth tones, adding depth and contrast to the collection. The men’s collection features standout pieces such as a flowy, printed button-down shirt and tie-dyed sweater in neon hues. For the ladies, Truong has carried over several of these patterns in delightfully oversized blouses and sweaters. There are also several intentionally proportioned t-shirts made in butter yellow and creamy pink hues.
Maiden Noir consists of a close knit in-house team who supports many aspects of the business, from marketing to photo shoots. “Finding our window of light in between days of rain and clouds to give us that tropical essence was a major challenge,” shares Christa Thomas, who leads many of Maiden Noir’s creative and marketing projects and is also Truong’s life partner, of the new collection’s creative campaign. “Since Brazil is not only a city with access to tropical beaches, it has a major cityscape juxtaposed to the ocean and tropical forest, so finding an industrial setting for our Men’s campaign was a bit easier. ”
While Truong and Thomas have built a brand with international appeal, they credit their Pacific Northwest roots as a source of inspiration. “I think our relationship with the city’s geography is very different than others,” explains Truong, who cites the region’s proximity to the outdoors and dense geography as a unique source innovation and growth. “It influenced me to not just design new things but how to create products with value.”
“We choose a quality of life over the stressful day-to-day you might find in other obvious fashion cities,” adds Thomas, “if you are inherently a creative person you don’t need others to push you to do something great.”
Experience Maiden Noir’s new spring/summer collection at the DADADA Gallery; Japantown; 513 S. Main St.; 206.774.8730; maidennoir.com