Vietnamese heiress accused of being Covid-19 ‘super spreader’ launches hygiene and self-care product range


Nga Nguyen, a Vietnamese entrepreneur and jet-setter based in London, was inadvertently catapulted to fame in March 2020 when she caught Covid-19 during fashion week in Europe.
Her ordeal – and that of her sister, who also tested positive for the coronavirus – made headlines around the world , turning Nguyen into an overnight celebrity while she was recovering at a London hospital.
Nguyen and her sister were accused of being “super spreaders” and had to deal with a great deal of backlash from Vietnamese and international media.
It was during this difficult time that Nguyen, who has always had an interest in design and who had until then focused on her family’s real-estate business, decided to turn her traumatic experience into an opportunity.
“I was at the hospital but I wasn’t on a ventilator and I was conscious. I was blessed to get very good treatment and I was very impressed by all the sanitising products that they used, and that made me think that I should use my personal experience to start a line,” says Nguyen on a recent Zoom call from London.
The line is named N.G.A., which stands for Never Go Alone, and consists of a series of products developed around the concepts of self-care and hygiene.
“Before this happened to me, I never focused on hygiene products – they were always an afterthought,” Nguyen says. “You obviously have wipes in the kitchen and stuff like that but I wanted to turn hygiene products into something beautiful that you celebrate. Most sanitisers are sticky and don’t feel good on your skin and you have to wash your hands afterwards. I wanted to create something like a perfume but that also disinfects.”
Nguyen, who is the founder of the company, partnered with a California-based friend with a background in fragrances and hired him as creative director. The two worked together to create formulas and scents by communicating online and eventually enlisted British design studio Layer to develop the sleek and distinct packaging of the products.
Reflecting Nguyen’s network of far-flung connections, the other two members of her team are an IT specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria, and a chief operating officer based in Milan, Italy, making N.G.A. a brand run by four professionals on four different continents.
Establishing a company during a pandemic and global economic crisis was never going to be easy, Nguyen acknowledges, but she wanted to make the most of her downtime and to start working on a project that she could call her own.
“I was always struggling to find my own entrepreneurial project,” she says. “I’ve always loved fashion but I didn’t feel I was good at designing and then I had so much time without travelling and even though I felt weak physically, mentally I was very alive and had all these ideas.”
Nguyen believes that the current spike in demand for sanitising products, a direct result of the pandemic, is not a short-term trend and that Covid-19 will have a long-lasting impact on people’s daily lives and hygiene habits.
“The pandemic has taught us about self-awareness and well-being,” she says. “Taking care of yourself is the new normal because in three years there could be another virus, so you have to improve your hygiene and protect yourself and wear a mask.”
Nguyen is aware that the launch of N.G.A. could be perceived as a way to profit from her new-found fame, but she says that her heart is in the right place.
“You can never please everyone,” Nguyen says. “I’m doing this because I want to help other people and I plan to add philanthropic elements into the project going forward.”
The range, which will be available on the company’s website from January, features a face mask, a sanitising hand treatment, hand wipes, home wipes, a scented candle, and tech wipes for phone and computer screens .
Looking back at her unusual experience with Covid-19, Nguyen points out that the pandemic has already had lasting effects on the way she approaches life.
“You think of the darkest moments and live with more purpose, also because you know who your real friends are,” she says. “I wake up every day and I walk 10,000 steps before 10am and I created a routine for me that’s very effective in order to prepare for the new normal.
“No one wants to get sick but if you do, you have to be strong mentally because you have to handle it by yourself, without your loved ones (because of the) quarantine, so it’s very hard. It’s a mind test, a real challenge to go through this on your own.”
This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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