Khoa Nguyen

He's challenging stereotypes in gender and fashion

CU Denver helped this alumnus design his own future

April 9, 2018

City StoriesWhat did you wear to work today?

Whether you planned the perfect outfit to match your Prada pumps or grabbed the first thing hanging in your closet, your fashion choices are a way to express yourself. For CU Denver alumnus Khoa Nguyen, that form of self-expression is more important than ever. After graduating with a BA in English and art history in fall 2017, Nguyen has set out to make his mark on the world through the art of fashion.

As a CU Denver student, Nguyen discovered art’s potential for social impact and was inspired to be part of the next great art movement. “When individuals are able to truly be themselves through fashion – without ridicule – only then are communities able to merge,” said Nguyen.

As a form of self-expression, fashion has the potential to be a liberating force for minority communities. By challenging gender and fashion stereotypes, Nguyen hopes to offer the LGBTQ community a mainstream media outlet – something he didn’t have growing up.

Working hard at fashion and at life

Khoa Nguyen
Khoa Nguyen believes in the power of fashion to create community

A trendsetter in more ways than one, Nguyen and his two sisters were the first generation in their family to graduate from college.

In addition to serving as treasurer for the CU Denver Art History Association, Nguyen worked as a senior fashion writer for 303 magazine. He covered local art and fashion events as well as wrote style profiles on Denver’s notable fashionistas and trendsetters. Staying true to his passions, Nguyen now works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

His hard work and commitment to minority communities has paved the way for a promising future. CU Denver Today asked Nguyen a few questions about what he loved about CU Denver and where his life is headed next:

What are your preferred gender pronouns?

I identify as male, but I really do see myself as gender nonconforming. I’m comfortable being referred to as male or female. However, I do like the occasional “miss” (haha).

Where does your passion/inspiration for your work come from? Is it why you entered your field?

I’ve always loved fashion and art. Visual beauty and aesthetics are very important to me. My passion comes from the fact that there is history behind each piece of art and each fashion movement.

How has CU Denver’s location in the city impacted your educational and professional growth?

I loved going to school in the city. While Colorado is generally not a conservative state, it’s certainly not L.A. or New York. So being in the city around more people of color and members of the LGBTQ community really shaped my growth. Educationally, it has also allowed me to share in new viewpoints. The location was also great for me as an art major, giving me access to some of the best galleries and museums Denver has to offer.

Where is your career/life headed next?

Well, I recently moved to New York City, since it is a place I’ve always dreamed of living. I’m still at a sort of crossroads as to whether I’d like to work in fashion or art. However, NYU has a master’s program in costume studies, which would combine my love for art history and fashion. So, I am very much considering going back to school to study more and explore.

Where is your favorite place to hang out in Denver? What do you like about it?

I loved going out and often went to Tracks nightclub. The gay scene in Denver is limited, but Tracks always had amazing vibes with good music and an even better dance floor. I also loved the crowd that it drew, which was a great mix of people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.

How does fashion create community, and how do you see yourself contributing to that community?

Fashion allows for individuals to truly express who they are. Some might find that comfort in sweats and jeans while others in more artsy ways. I believe that when individuals are able to truly be themselves through fashion – without ridicule – only then are communities able to merge.

What gets you up every morning? What keeps you up at night?

Fashion and style get me up in the morning. Sometimes I think that I spend too much time thinking about what to wear for the next day or what pair of shoes I want to buy next, but these thoughts really drive me. I just love the art of dressing and the thought of a new day with a new look is always exciting and makes me work hard to get what I want. What keeps me up at night? Thoughts of the future and how I’m going to pay for that new bag I want (haha).

What surprised you, hopefully in a good way, about attending a public urban research university?

I guess I was surprised with the quality of the education. The art history department in itself has been amazing and the faculty especially are all extremely educated and good at what they do. I guess when you attend a public university you expect things to fall between the cracks as opposed to if you attended a school like NYU. However, meeting others from such “high-end” institutions has proved to me that the quality of our education and dedication from the CU Denver faculty is just as great, if not sometimes better, than other “high-end” universities.

What is your favorite quote?

“I like my money right where I can see it, hanging in my closet.” Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City.

Who is your favorite fashion icon and why?

Oh geez, I have so many. I always answer with Audrey Hepburn, and not just because we share the same birthday. I just loved that she could take such simple pieces and make them look so elevated or styled without a lot of fluff. My style is totally different from hers, but I do try to emulate her elegance and class through my wardrobe.