by Julia Pierrepont III
PASADENA, United States, March 20 (Xinhua) -- "My Chinese roots have always inspired my designs," Chinese American fashion designer Vivienne Hu said on Tuesday in Pasadena, a city 16 km northeast of downtown Los Angeles in California.
"To be recognized for something so close to my heart makes this so much more special for me," said Hu, who was honored Visionary Artist by the University of Southern California (USC) Pacific Asia Museum, for her creative contributions to boosting Asia-Pacific cultural exchanges through design and arts.
At an annual gala of the USC museum held on Saturday in Pasadena, Vivienne Hu and Mei-lee Ney, both Chinese American women, received the two honors, namely, Visionary Artist Award and Legacy Award.
Mei-lee Ney, president of Pasadena's investment advisory firm, Richard Ney and Associates Asset Management Inc, was awarded for her lifetime philanthropic work and community-building.
"Vivienne is one of those rare artists who is rooted in the past, rooted in China, but is very contemporary and hip," said Selma Holo, interim director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum, in praise of Hu.
Hu affirmed that her Chinese heritage has always played a significant role in forming the direction and design motifs of her haute couture collections.
"It has always been an honor and delight to represent my culture and my roots through my design," she told Xinhua.
Initially working in banking, Hu made the life-changing decision to study fashion at the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City (NYC), enabling her to land coveted positions and enhance her craft at the legendary fashion houses, Oscar de la Renta and Yigal Azrouel, after she graduated.
Since then, her fashion career has taken off. Hu has participated in the prestigious New York Fashion Week runway shows, was showcased in the Fall/Winter 2015 collection in Shenzhen Fashion Week in China, and named a Swarovski Collective designer in 2016.
Hu now operates her own VHNY boutiques in SoHo, New York and her overseas flagship store in Shanghai, China, where her uniquely fashionable blend of classic elegance, NYC street vibe, and touches of Chinese traditional fabrics are on sale.
Unlike Hu, Ney, a Shanghai-born-California-immigrant, did have a passion for banking. The daughter of a banker and an executive for the International Monetary Fund, Ney grew up with an understanding of the value of money that her Chinese heritage helped instill in her.
In addition to her professional work, Ney, as a highly-respected philanthropist who cares deeply about the causes and organizations she supports, puts her compassion and relationships to good use, fostering and supporting her community with charitable donations and other work.
Ney donated 20 million U.S. dollars to USC to establish a new center dedicated to research on longevity and healthy aging.
"I never feel like I deserve any honors - I volunteer my time and make donations because it makes me happy and makes life beautiful," Ney said after accepting her award.
She talked about the emotional separation that she as a small child and her parents experienced when they left behind loved relatives in China to immigrate to America.
Ney's tremendous gift to the USC Leonard David School of Gerontology will be instrumental in enabling people to look at how an aging population can maintain its health throughout its entire lifespan, said Michael Quick, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs for USC.
Passionate about advancing Asian culture and the well-being of the community she serves, Ney sits on the Board of the USC Pacific Asia Museum, the Board of Councilors for the USC Leonard David School of Gerontology, and is a Trustee of Otis College of Art and Design, and member of the Board of Overseers at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.
A tireless dynamo, Ney is also active in a wide range of community and non-profit organizations, including LA Opera, Caltech Associated, Pasadena Senior Center and the Pasadena Education Foundation.
"Human connections add more to longevity than anything else," Ney said. "In the end, it's relationships that matter. Everything else is ephemeral."
Established in 1971, the USC Pacific Asia Museum is one of a few U.S. institutions dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum has played its role as a vital resource of education programs and an explorer of Chinese and Asia's rich artistic and cultural heritage.