In a world where paths are often predetermined and choices are made based on convention, there are those brave people who dare to break free from the expected, embarking on journeys that not only redefine their lives but also the industries they touch.
Hailing from the US, Hero H. Dinh arrived in Turkiye lands with dreams that transcended the ordinary. Having forged a successful path in finance, navigating the intricate mazes of spreadsheets and market trends, Dinh discovered that a deeper calling beckoned. It was the vibrant tapestry of fashion, with its multiple colors, textures, and stories, that ignited a fire within Hero's heart.
Leaving behind the security of a stable profession, Hero fearlessly embarked on a journey that led to the creation of HRO Brands, a unique and resplendent collection that encapsulates the essence of individuality.
In this interview, I discovered the heart and soul of a fashion entrepreneur who dared to follow his calling and, in doing so, reshaped the landscape of style.
How to escape from corporate to follow your dreams?
I don’t think there’s a guidebook on this. Everyone’s situation is different. For me, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled working in corporate finance and was looking for a change. After much soul searching, I’ve decided to give fashion a shot.
It wasn’t an easy decision to leave behind steady income and prestige status for the unknown fashion territory and risks. It comes down to how strongly you feel about your passion/dreams and what kind of sacrifices you are willing to take.
For me, it felt like it was the right time in my life and I could no longer ignore my calling.
What made you decide to leave your career in finance to start your own fashion business?
As an immigrant child from Vietnam, I was raised to be practical. That means the goal is to go to school and get an education that can translate to a successful career. Successful career means making a lot of money. I did what I was set out to do. Got my education and had a very successful career in corporate finance for more than 2 decades.
As successful as I was professionally, I was not happy and constantly dreamed about doing something more creative, more fulfilling to my soul. Design is something I’ve always had an interest in, specifically fashion design.
When the world stood still during the COVID-19 pandemic, I did some soul searching and finally decided to leave corporate finance to pursue my calling, fashion. That’s when I made the bold decision to leave Los Angeles for Istanbul, Turkiye.
Why Istanbul you may ask? At the time of the pandemic, there are only 2 countries Americans can travel to. One is Mexico and the other is Turkiye. Being from Los Angeles, Mexico is too familiar and too easy as I have been there many times before.
I was searching for something new and exciting. Istanbul was a very attractive option.
What are your goals for your fashion business?
I want to make beautiful, unique garments for everyone. Personally, I have a specific style of dressing though they change over the years. I want people to have the opportunity to wear the clothes that I would make for myself. I am my own customer, in a way.
What is your target market and why did you choose this particular area?
As I mentioned earlier, I am my own ideal customer but of course I want to be inclusive. Our clothes are unisex. My target market audience has accessible income, well traveled, stylish, adventurous.
This is my target market because I design for myself and for people with similar personalities and interests. I often look for specific things I want to wear to an event, but I usually can’t find what I was looking for. I think that if I design and make the things I want to wear, people will actually buy them!
What are the challenges you've faced in starting your business?
The biggest challenge is being a foreigner in Turkiye. The language barrier and just being non-turkish created difficult conversations and most of the time I ended up paying a higher cost than the locals.
The way people do business in Turkiye is quite different than in America. That was something I also had to learn the hard way. Being new to the industry, I had to learn so much, so fast. A lot of mistakes were made but I learned from them. In addition to garment production, I also have to learn how to set up shop on my own. There are many rules and regulations that come with the business.
How have you overcome these challenges?
Production wise, I learn from my mistakes. These mistakes become knowledge that can only be obtained from experience. On the business side, it just takes time to set up a business. Patience plays a key role in this part. To this day, I am still trying new things by trial and error. If something works, I will continue. If it doesn’t, I will look for a new strategy.
As a newcomer to the Fashion Industry, how do you plan to gain credibility and trust among potential investors and customers?
The best way to gain credibility is having a great product and delivering them on time. Customers must absolutely get what they were promised. I want them to love the garments they receive from us. As a new brand, those are my priorities at the moment.
What’s your design process?
I often look at a random object and somehow can reimagine it into a garment. From there, I play around with the idea until it becomes a design.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Having an imaginative mind and openness to unconventional ways of interpreting shapes, sizes, gender and colors play a huge role in the designing process.
What are your plans for growth?
I am currently focusing on clothing but the plan is to expand into a lifestyle brand that includes accessories, beauty, sports, travel and more.
What are your thoughts on the future of the fashion industry?
I like that customers are now environmentally conscious and they demand sustainable fashion. I hope it continues in that direction as I am committed to making fashion more sustainable and inclusive. I believe in making timeless and long lasting garments that people can enjoy year over year. So, no fast fashion.
How has your experience in finance helped you in your fashion business?
Numbers wise, it helps a lot. I can easily determine if a product will be profitable once I know the cost. I can put together financial plans and execute based on that.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned so there’s always issues to solve. But that was something I used to do in corporate finance as well.
Who is your fashion icon?
Madonna, Alexander McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennidy Beyonce, Rhianna, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Marie Antoinette
What is your favorite fashion color and why?
White and black are my two favorite colors. They can be simple but at the same time can be quite powerful. They’re also very chic.
What is your favorite fashion fabric?
For summer, I like light weight, breathable fabrics such as linen, viscos, cotton. For winter, I like wool, tweed, cashmere, and cotton
What are the things you miss most about your native country?
The people and the food. Vietnamese are happy, friendly people. I definitely miss that familiar feeling of being around your own people and speaking my native tongue language. As much as I enjoy being different and standing out in a crowd, I also enjoy being one with the people. Vietnamese food I miss dearly.
Unfortunately, where I am residing at the moment, -Istanbul-, there isn’t much of an option for authentic Vietnamese food. I look forward to a visit to Vietnam where I can reconnect with the people and foods.
What are the things you're grateful for about your current life?
I am most grateful for this unique opportunity of living in such a beautiful, historic city, Istanbul. The new friendships I’ve made here have made the experience even more special. But most of all, being able to finally do what I love, fashion, is the greatest gift and blessing.
How did you adjust to life in a new country?
I miss my family and friends but fortunately I’ve met so many new people here and most of them have become really good friends and my support system. After 3 years of living in Istanbul, I still feel like I am new to the city.
There’s so much to see and learn each day. The language barrier is still a challenge when it comes to doing business. But I am learning Turkish slowly and it’s getting better each day.
What are your experiences with friends and family in your new country?
I would have to say the friends I’ve met here in Istanbul have made my experience in this beautiful city even more beautiful. Everyone is so interesting with their own stories of how they end up in Turkiye. We’re all doing something new and extraordinary. I learn from and appreciate all the friendships I've made in Istanbul.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own fashion business?
If fashion is your calling, then you have to give it a try. Being able to do what you love is already a win, in my opinion. What I found helpful is networking. I’ve met a lot of people in casual settings, who know somebody in the fashion business and from there, I got introductions.
Follow up on those leads. You never know where it can take you. I’ve learned so much from just talking with the people who are in the industry now. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Hero's journey reminds us that within the threads of uncertainty lies the fabric of transformation. With HRO Brands, Dinh has not only sewn together extraordinary garments but has woven a tale of courage, artistry, and the remarkable fusion of dreams and reality.