By Chere Di Boscio
When Maureen Ngoc comes into the Galerie Cipango in Paris’s St Germain neighbourhood for our interview, I’m a bit taken aback. Her sculptural accessories are fit for a warrior queen, with their spikes, points and thorns belying their paper origami origins.
I was thus expecting a formidable, dark Amazonian to enter the room, shake my hand, light a cigarette and answer my questions whilst broodily staring into the distance. Instead, a chirpy, friendly, tiny Vietnamese woman greets me with a kiss and a huge smile. She’s pretty and wearing pink and white and reminds me of a little bird.
Fitting then, that aviary forms are one of her greatest inspirations.
“I was always fascinated by birds and flight,” she confesses. Picking up an object made of hundreds of tiny, interconnecting folded pieces, she says “this was inspired by the way a bird’s wing moves. See?” she says, moving what looked like a very solid piece into motion.
In fact, each piece is movable, she tells me, which is why they act not only as sculptures, but high-concept fashion accessories too.
After doing a few mathematical calculations and somewhat architectural drawings to plan each item, Maureen spends hundreds of hours carefully folding each tiny component and putting them into place. Perfect symmetry is essential for these to work; one ‘off’ piece and the entire sculpture is ruined.
Sylvie Tissot, owner of the Cipango Gallery which is currently showing Ngoc’s work, said that the designer’s technique has much potential, ranging from the creation of tiny, wearable pieces of jewellery to gigantic objets d’art to be sold to collectors.
When the Hanoi native was studying at London’s College of Fashion, her teachers encouraged her to realise her designs using 3D design, which would be much easier, but Gnoc says ‘I’ve been doing origami since I was a child and I wanted to continue with that.”
Indeed, Ngoc’s first memories of creating fashion involved paper. She told Push It Magazine: ” I remember when I was about 5 or 6, my brother came home from school in heavy rain and gave me a set of paper dressing-up dolls. I was laying all the dresses on my table, playing with them for hours and hours everyday. Eventually I got bored of changing the same dresses for the dolls, so I started drawing and cutting new ones. I gave some to other girls in my neighbourhood and they treasured them because my dresses couldn’t be bought in a stationary store.”
Despite her love of paper, she does find inspiration in other designers using 3D techniques, however, and cites Iris Van Herpen and Alexander McQueen as two of her favourites. In fact, she once said in an interview that if she could design anything for anyone, she would create a pair of origami wings for Alexander McQueen because “for all the creations and inspiration he left us, he deserves to go to heaven”.
Forget a small bird. This sweet, talented and sensitive designer is more like a little angel.
Images: Vu Duc Loc Tho