The Curious Life and Strange Death of a Fashion Insider

If Mr. Nguyen’s perspective was consistently that of an outsider, few in the fashion world were more omnipresent than he in the front rows of New York and Paris and Milan. The breadth of the connections made through the years was on full display one evening in early November, when friends gathered on the terrace of a penthouse suite at the Maritime Hotel in Manhattan to remember a man many felt they knew intimately — through daily text barrages, emails and telephone calls, noodle lunches convened at favorite Vietnamese haunts in Paris or on Baxter Street in Chinatown — and yet, in important ways, not at all.

Gathered that evening were senior public relations executives from Balenciaga, Max Mara, Louis Vuitton and Hermès; agency heads; modeling scouts; top stylists; and fashion editors seldom voluntarily seen together in one place. Seasoned fashion observers were there, too: Booth Moore, the West Coast executive editor of Women’s Wear Daily, and Robin Givhan, the critic-at-large at The Washington Post.

Though the tone of the evening was inevitably rueful, there was also levity, and when Nate Hinton, once referred to in The New York Times as the most powerful Black public relations executive in fashion, spoke about collaborating with Mr. Nguyen on a men’s wear shoot for Flaunt, it was with a laugh. “That shoot almost got me fired,” he said.

In those days Mr. Hinton worked as a fledgling publicist handling men’s wear at Prada. “There was a collection that was all bright colors,” he said. “Long called and said: ‘We’re going to shoot this all on Black guys.They’re the only ones that will look good in the clothes.’”

The resulting pictorial, gorgeously shot on stoops in Harlem, covered more than 12 pages of the magazine and was in many ways typical of Mr. Nguyen’s vision for fashion, one in which inclusivity was no gimmick or revisionist editorial strategy. “I was so excited,” Mr. Hinton said. “But when I showed it to corporate, the reaction was, ‘You didn’t get permission for this.’” Still, as he said later by phone, “I don’t regret doing it at all.”

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