Flaunt magazine cofounder Long Nguyen, an independent thinker who was very much part of the fashion scene for the past few decades, has died.
Many in the industry associate him with Flaunt, the indie magazine that he cofounded in 1998 and where he served as its longtime style director until the summer of 2019. Prior to Flaunt, Nguyen served as style director for Detour magazine in the mid- to late ’90s, helping to define the relaxed and accessible street style and grittier heroin chic ethos that was taking hold in the fashion industry.
Earlier in his career Nguyen opened the first public relations office in New York for Dolce & Gabbana — an opportunity that was said to have presented itself after he happened to meet cofounders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana — and later taught himself Italian. More recently, Nguyen had served as chief fashion critic at The Impression. After leaving that post, Nguyen had been working as a creative consultant.
One of his sisters, Dao Nguyen, an attorney in Vietnam, confirmed his death Tuesday. She was uncertain of his exact age.
A memorial is being considered for a later date, she said.
Declining to comment on the cause of death, his sister said, “He died peacefully and on his terms.”
Nguyen’s body was found in his Chelsea apartment by the New York Police Department, according to Alan Fell, a partner at Rick, Steiner, Fell & Benowitz LLP., whose firm had represented Nguyen prior to his death and is handling his estate.
An NYPD spokesperson deferred comment to the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner. Representatives there had not responded to a request for comment as of Tuesday afternoon. The date of Nguyen’s death has not yet been confirmed by city officials.
New York City became the base camp for the Vietnamese-born creative, who forged his own career path in the U.S. after his family came to America following the fall of Saigon.
The Washington Post’s senior critic at large Robin Givhan first befriended Nguyen in her early days of covering fashion at The Detroit Free Press, a fact she knew because he had saved a thank-you note that she had written to him for loaning garments for a photo shoot.
“It stands out because it was a mid-size paper that was not [available] across the country. It wasn’t exactly seen as this hot fashion market. I had just started. But he was one of those people who was just very kind,” she said Tuesday. “He was always extremely gracious and thoughtful — someone who always remembers your birthdays.”
Inclined to also file away designers’ notes from runway shows and other industry-related ephemera, Nguyen had “this really incredible sense recall and history.” Above all, Givhan admired his independence as an editor, having grown up in the indie magazine world.
Singling out his role at Flaunt, she said, “To be able to build a magazine, stay in a magazine and create these connections throughout the industry, where people not only resent what you do, but are eager to contribute to what you do as an independent is really extraordinary in the best of times. Then to be able to do that, as everything has become so corporate, is in my mind kind of a miracle. He worked so hard at not just what went into the magazine but all of the behind-the-scenes relationships that you have to build in order to sustain a magazine.”
His exit from Flaunt attracted headlines. At the time, Nguyen said that an assistant’s legal filing alleging sexual and verbal harassment against two senior executives at the Los Angeles-based magazine was “the last straw” for him. Flaunt officials denied any wrongdoing at that time and challenged the length of the 21-year tenure that Nguyen claimed to have had at the magazine. Nguyen had stated that he only stepped aside after being unable to get the accused to “do the right thing” in a post-#MeToo era.
Born in 1965, he grew up in a family with 11 other siblings and lived an intercontinental life from a young age. He was believed to have been 58 years old, according to his sister, who was not certain of his birth month, as birthdays were not customarily celebrated. Nguyen started living overseas at the age of eight or nine, attending boarding school in Geneva. In 1975, as the Vietnam War was ending, the family, which had built one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country, relocated to the U.S. and settled in Boston. “When we left for America, we had basically lost everything. My mother has since come back and rebuilt [the company],” his sister said.
After Nguyen’s father died in Vietnam, his mother and his aunts ran the pharmaceutical company, which had a joint venture with Nestlé to make milk formula and also made IV solutions for the U.S. Army through a separate deal, his sister Dua said. Their mother was “kind a powerhouse,” she said. “And raising 12 kids alone in America is not easy. In the ’90s, she went back to Vietnam because she was always passionate about the health care sector. She rebuilt a factory to make over-the-counter medicine because she wanted to bring affordable health care to Vietnamese people. She put all of us through school, high school, college and graduate school.”
Dao Nguyen said, “It was not easy sometimes. Wholly sensitive kids feel some isolation more than others, if you know what I mean. We all have to learn to deal with certain things in our lives. She clearly can’t give us all of her attention, right?”
Long Nguyen had attended the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy and Princeton University, where he studied comparative history and comparative literature. He was often reading, favoring Russian and French literature, especially works by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Jean-Paul Sartre. “He always had a very sensitive aspect to himself and that is reflected in his writing. He always sees a different side to things.”
Emphasizing how Long’s sensitivity made him feel things more than many of us do, his sister said, “Sensitive people feel more. They get hurt more. In a way, they are brilliant at what they do. But there is that anger. In some ways, he was like that.”
Uplifted by the number of strangers, predominantly from the fashion community, who have reached out to extend their condolences, his sister said, “I am so happy to see that so many people love him. Basically, they are his family in New York. I see those professionals as his family even more so than the family that he was born into.”
Givhan recalled Tuesday how many of professional connections led to real friendships for him, as opposed to necessary transactional exchanges that are common for some working in fashion. She said, “It never felt transactional with him. He was so smart about the industry, creativity and history. He really thought about things. He read so broadly — far beyond fashion. He was as engaged with politics, history and religion — a vast array of topics — and he funneled a lot of that into his consideration of fashion. He loved fashion but he could be as completely enthusiastic discussing something unrelated to fashion.”
Not one to boast about anything, Nguyen would periodically share articles that he had written with his sister, who was impressed by how he expressed himself and had encouraged him to write a book about the fashion industry’s history starting in the ’80s, when “people were really creative without being worried about what people think.” she said.
Suspecting that he was in the process of doing that, his sister hopes that, if that is in fact the case, some of his friends will help see that through. “That was the most beautiful thing about him. He never boasted. He never said anything about himself. But certainly, he was proud of some of the things that he had sent me.”
In addition to his sister, Long is survived by his other siblings and their mother, whose names were not immediately known.