For Tran Vinh, the decision to join beauty brand incubator Kendo Brands Inc. (owned by LVMH) came down to one thing: potential. Vinh, who serves as Kendo’s vice president of global store design, saw an opportunity to take the company to new heights by designing at the intersection of beauty and technology—an intersection she believes will be increasingly critical moving forward.
“Right now, there’s nothing but fluidity,” says Vinh of her industry. “We live in a world that is changing exponentially, and if we don’t embrace this kind of change it’s going to make the industry stagnant. We need to work as nimbly as we can, knowing that the technology will just keep ramping up and demanding that we adjust with it.”
At Kendo, Vinh has found her place on the cutting edge of the field. She understands the importance of keeping pace with developing trends and technologies, and she applies this understanding to her work on domestic, international, and virtual store concepts for innovative beauty brands like Fenty Beauty and Lip Lab. Her vision for the future also shines through in her efforts to lift up other women and members of underrepresented communities at Kendo and in the industry at large.
Vinh studied architecture as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a graduate student at Harvard. The differences between the two programs gave her a holistic perspective that laid the groundwork for her varied career. “It was a fantastic contrast to be on the West Coast focusing on sustainability, creativity, and the tactile side of architecture, and then move to the East Coast where my training was much more conceptual, theoretical, and digital,” she elaborates.
After contributing to the publication Harvard Guide to Shopping early in her career and working at large-scale institutional architecture firms, Vinh gravitated toward boutique retail design and client-side roles centered around smaller-scale varied projects. She honed her expertise in store design at beauty conglomerate L’Oréal and fashion house Chanel before making the jump to Kendo within LVMH in 2018.
Among Vinh and her team’s major projects have been the rollout of shop and pop-up locations for Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin in the Asia-Pacific region, new regions, and markets and physical/virtual formats planned for upcoming years. In addition, she and her team have continued to roll out Lip Labs domestically and internationally via freestanding, popup, virtual, and shop-in-shop models.
No matter the project, Vinh plays a crucial part in the design process, which is as dynamic as Kendo’s brands. “Store concepts involve several variables that come together as we develop the designs,” she says. “The process includes transforming the brand code’s DNA into a 3-D representation of the brand, integrating aesthetics, innovation, the needs of key stakeholders, and adaptation of the stores to the cultural and local variations of each region.”
Throughout this process, Vinh remains in close contact with different departments, teams, and individual stakeholders across the company to ensure cohesive storytelling for each brand. “The beauty of working at Kendo is that we have so many different brands under our belt, and each of them offers an endless amount of inspiration to us as designers,” she says.
Vinh draws just as much inspiration from the act of designing itself. “Any time you have the ability to create or build something that you can embed meaning into, it’s very motivating,” she says. “The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the work the team has done to transform an idea from a napkin sketch to a rendering to the finished product. My greatest joy is being with the team at the store opening, looking back at the sketch, and comparing it to what has been built.”
The prospect of that joy drives Vinh to persevere in the face of challenges, which she embraces as a generative part of the design process. She seeks to imbue the same perseverance in her fellow women, whether at Kendo or elsewhere in a historically male-dominated construction industry. “It’s important to nurture and represent that subsector of my industry as a female minority in the field of architecture, store design and construction,” she says. “I enjoy being a mentor to other women to empower and guide them through their career journeys.”
Vinh engages in community outreach as a committee member of the EllesVMH, a professional resource group for women within the LVMH luxury conglomerate. She hopes the program will help women like her have a greater hand in elevating the industry to the next level, including involvement mentorship programs and community outreach.
And, as her work to be done, she says, “With the increase in AR, VR, and AI technologies, it will be important to start shifting the mindset of what our profession is to what it can become in the future. I’d like to focus on how store design will transform to become more immersive in both physical space and the metaverse.”