Trang Hoang’s graduate collection ‘Colonialism’ started with an image of three Vietnamese female prisoners, entrapped by ladders over their heads. They were prisoners of the French, revolutionists under the French colonial rule in Vietnam during the late 19th - early 20th century. The ladder, which Trang envisioned as the symbol of the oppression of the Vietnamese under colonialism, became her main inspiration. She started to experiment with wooden structures to create ‘cages’ into clothes.
Her aim was to recreate the illusion of wooden ‘cages’ using wooden rods, which she either inserted into the garments with tubes or built a separated wooden structure to frame the garment away from the body. Through her found colonial postcards with images of captured Vietnamese and the colonists, she investigated the themes of imprisonment, dehumanisation and split identity using elements like wood, organic shapes tied up by ropes, and loose bulks of muslins. The collection is essentially a combination between traditional Vietnamese clothes and the sharp cut 1910s suit, representing the regarded soft, messy, entangled East (colonist) and the proposed sharp, straight, modernist West (coloniser).
The different tones of moss, pickle, sage green and sienna brown, khaki on muslin, silk and linen and the general softness came from Trang’s memory of the country side and the farmers back in Vietnam, who were the main subject of these photographs. Next to black suiting fabric, the collection brings an earthy, strange and rather cynical mood throughout. With the visible uncomfortable frames and bulky volumes, Trang created a collection with a narrative to both the wearer and the observer, as well as reflecting her love for constructions and visual experimentation.