There is always talk of people wanting to put their state on their back but few actually take on the challenge, let alone succeed. It’s a huge commitment but one guy has set out to make his dreams exist. Columbus-bred designer Ngockhanh Van Ngo has put the state on his back time and time again, literally, with his streetwear brand MADE by NGO. He managed to create a brand full of state pride, but not in the cliche way that we’re all sick and tired of seeing from a state of die-hard sports fans. MADE truly embodies the spirit of Ohio and the “Only Hustlers In Ohio” slogan is a personal favorite because if you want to make any small thing happen here, you absolutely have to hustle and get it from scratch.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ngockhanh about his journey as a designer, opening up his new storefront, and what’s to come. Read what this highly driven and inspiring guy had to say and be sure to check out his store opening today in Columbus from 5 PM to 10 PM (details below).
VANICE ALEXANDER: Hey, man. So tell me, who is Ngo?
NGOCKHANH VAN GO: My name is Ngockhanh Van Ngo. Most of my life growing up in America, going to Columbus Schools, my peers called me Nah’Khan and as I got older I tend to say that my name is Khanh (Con) to make it easier. I always would correct people when they would say my name since kindergarten. I was born in Vietnam and moved to the U.S. when I was 4 which was 1991 and my family settled in Columbus, Ohio. I was born in 1987, which makes me 27 years old. I am a fashion designer, artist, and full-time hustler.
How and when was MADE conceived?
Well, it’s crazy how MADE by NGO started. It really started Junior year at CCAD (Columbus College of Arts & Design). I would write “MADE BY NGO” on all of my projects and it somehow became a name I stuck with. In March 2012, I had a pop up at Sole Classics where I released some custom jackets that I had made and on the tags of those jackets, I officially went with MADE BY NGO. MADE means “Make All Dreams Exist”.
It’s all about going after your dreams and making them happen.
Never give up and even when you fail you can always get up and keep fighting. Set something in life and achieve it, but also stay true to who you are.
Could you always see yourself being here as a young kid? Or is this something that you decided to do later on in life?
Growing up in a traditional Vietnamese family, my family never really wanted me to pursue art. In high school, I was just into fashion and customizing T-Shirts was just something to make quick cash. I never really seen myself to be a designer, I never had enough confidence to do so but with support from my friends it gave me the push to pursue it. I wanted to do it correctly so, later on, I decided to go to CCAD when I turned 21-years-old. I wanted to see myself achieve something and not just waste my years trying to figure out what I should or could do.
Who are some of your greatest influences?
My mom has always been a huge influence in my life. Being in a family of seven she has always been a house mom but she always found her ways to put food on the table. She always told me “In life, you have to know how to use your two hands”, meaning that one hand can be educated but if the job industry is bad then you can also make money with your other hand. I get my hustle and bustle from her.
As far as designers, the one that greatly influences me is Ralph Lauren. I look up to what he does, from selling ties to becoming the man he is and he really stuck with menswear and kept it real Americana. It’s weird, growing up I admired the American culture like cowboys, trackers, muscle cars, everything was interesting to me. Ralph Lauren displays that from his clothing to his lifestyle. His work is classic and timeless which I admire the most.
I want to create things that can be worn 10 to 20 years from today.
Tell me about this gallery! Is this a pop-up shop or your very own storefront?
So, MADE & Co. GALLERY is an actual storefront and art gallery. I want to be able to expose art monthly and along with that of course clothing. So with the gallery side, we plan to showcase a new artist each month and they will have a month to showcase their work. So far, in April we’re gonna kick off with my partner Vada Mitchell and in May I will showcase my art series and then we will go on and showcase more people. So we will be selling the MADE by NGO brand, pushing TRBE VADA, and along with that, I’m looking into bringing more brands in and also help showcase up and coming brands.
That’s awesome man, the state truly needs more platforms for creatives. Congratulations! I can imagine that tackling a project of this size comes with many struggles along the way. Was there anything in particular that you struggled with during the process of making this goal a reality?
I think I am really blessed. In 2013 I had done a pop up at Milk Bar around October I believe, and the pop-up went really well and by October 2014 I opened a small flagship in The CO-OP Shop. This Saturday I will have a grand opening of my own shop. The only struggle I can say is when I graduated I had a hard time finding a design job. It really effected me I had interviews with A&F, Gap, Urban Outfitters and four times at Ralph Lauren, my dream job. I know what I am worth and when I kept coming short it really bothered me. Being the person that I am, being taught to use my two hands, I created MADE BY NGO. At first, it was just something to get by while I interviewed for these big companies, but it just became something special. I get a lot of support and people enjoy it, I could not just sit and just let something special like this disappear. Later on, I decided that I wanted to see how this goes, maybe it can be a Ralph Lauren one day. No one knows.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Believe in what you love and do it. I should’ve gone straight to art school but I was not confident in myself but hey I can change anything.
How do you know Vada? We’re huge fans of his style, in both music and illustration.
I first met Vada when he was with Fly Union, he went by LE for the UnCool and it’s crazy I met him when they kind of were first starting off. Well, Vada is like a Columbus legend. He brought so much culture to our city and Ohio. We started really kicking it in 2011, I helped him on a set of his music video “Bordeaux 7” and we’ve been homies since. He’s really like my big brother, he is someone I can also ask for advice and help.
Is it possible that we’ll see a collaboration from you two in the future?
Yeah, I think so, we always talk about it. I’m always asking him for his opinion with a lot of the things I do. We work well together so I don’t doubt it.
What can we look forward to from MADE in the future?
Honestly, there is a lot that I’m working on. My Fall cut and sew collection, it’s something that I really love. I’ve been putting it back because I been working and trying to get things off the ground. The plan is to be able to fund my cut and sew pieces with what I do now, so that’s my big future plan but for now got MADE & Co. GALLERY up and running and share the world my vision and dream. Also, I plan to push more of MADE BY NGO as a brand, I always will create cool Ohio items but I want to focus more on MADE BY NGO.
Thanks so much, Ngockhanh, have a wonderful opening tonight and congrats again.