30 May Designer Feature: Maria Nang Mai Dang

Maria Dang has always had a passion for design. Her design aesthetic is a study in contrasts, often juxtaposing feminine and hard edged elements. She finds inspiration in cultural crafts and traditions, museum exhibits, and period films. Maria studies both Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising and aspires to pursue a career in the fashion industry. She plans on continuing her journey of fashion through design, collaboration, and freelance.

Heirloom is a formal womenswear collection inspired by Maria’s cultural roots. Growing up in America but having refugee parents from Vietnam, Maria has had a mixture of cultural influences which has shaped her experiences. Heirloom aims to meld both of these heritage backgrounds together utilizing traditional Vietnamese elements with a modern twist through the Vietnamese “ao dai.” The pieces speak to the Vietnamese-American woman by paying tribute to the past without being paralyzed by tradition.

If you’d like Maria Nang Mai Dang to design an ensemble just for you, visit her website at www.MariaMai.com

Designer: Maria Nang Mai Dang Photography: Product – Cam Xiong & Adnil Photography, Backstage –  Alexis Salaam of Becoming Photography, Runway – Andrew L. Xiong Videography: Trev Tohssawat Models: Eve Thao, Christine Thao, Madison Cross, Hongman Li, Johannah Kneen, Regina Thep, Bailey Reimer Hair Styling: Ande St. Michael & Sica Dawn Make Up: Beauty with Savanah, Miranda Xiong of Mirandart, & Sunshine Yang of Radiance of Sunshine


When did you know you wanted to be a designer?  I actually started off my college career pursuing a degree in Nursing. But after my first semester at St. Kate’s things didn’t feel “right” and the career path just didn’t seem to click with me anymore. I wasn’t feeling happy with the direction things were going. But after sitting in one of my general classes (The Reflective Woman), I was fortunate enough to have met Hannah Johnson who was an Apparel Design major. She presented her final class presentation on her talent of being a designer and listening to her presentation inspired me more than she will know. I hadn’t even known that St. Kate’s offered a program in fashion so after that, things were history! I knew exactly what I wanted to do and had never felt so sure about myself.

Preferred apparel category & target market: Women’s Dresses / 20s-30s

What you are inspired by: I can get inspired by just about anything! Cultural crafts, museum exhibits, period films….the list is endless! Currently, I’m inspired by all the Disney remake films so there may be another collection in the works!

Favorite current trends: I love seeing all the different statement sleeves in blouses! They are all SO MUCH fun!

What sets you apart from other designers: I studied both Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design at St. Kate’s so I feel with my unique background of both studies, I can be a part of the entire garment process from design conceptualization to the buying/selling aspects.

Advice you would give to emerging designers: Design what YOU want and let YOUR inspiration show through. Don’t let anyone else dictate what your personal aesthetic should be! Once you are working under a company in the industry, you will constantly be designing for someone else who may not be in the target market that you wish, so remember to have fun and take some time outside of work to exercise what you like designing too. 

One of your favorite quotes: “Fashion is the most powerful art there is. It’s movement, design, and architecture all in one. It shows the world who we are who we’d like to be.”