From being lost to having big goals

Illanah Phong gains confidence from fashion and dreams of inspiring others


Photo courtesy of Emily Tran / SJSU student

21-year-old Illanah Phong expresses herself with bright colors in Seattle in February 2019

Being born and raised in the Bay Area influenced Illanah Phong to have a passion for the fashion industry.

With so much diversity in San Jose, the 21-year-old student at SJCC and EVC is constantly surrounded by unique senses of style.

After graduating from Silver Creek High School in 2018, she was not sure about what career path she wanted to take. She slowly started to realize that her biggest passion was having fun with clothes and putting pieces together.

Phong is majoring in business and is working towards creating her own clothing line after she transfers and graduates.

“My favorite thing about clothes is that anyone can pick and choose what they want to wear every day. You can express yourself in a certain way one day and wear something completely different the next,” Phong said.

Phong’s own style consists of flashy sneakers and mainly streetwear. She said she wishes to create a brand that allows people to feel comfortable with the products itself, while letting them express themselves.

Majoring in business has helped her understand how the industry works, from how to jump-start her career to how to get consumers to constantly return. With so much guidance from school, Phong has become intelligent on how to become a successful merchandiser.

“School has been a big part of my life, even though I hated it at first. I would be lost without it,” Phong said. “I wouldn’t know how to make my ideas come to life if it weren’t for school.”

Phong said that she is glad she chose to continue school after high school because of how much she has learned about how to be an entrepreneur. Combining school with her dream is easy because she is able to apply all of her knowledge to her future, she said.

Phong’s best friend, Evelyn Martinez, said that seeing her develop so much interest in clothing has made her more confident.

“Illanah has so many ideas, I can’t wait for people to see what she is capable of. I want her to make people comfortable with themselves like how fashion did for her,” Martinez said.

When she was younger, she said that she felt as if she was forced into dressing like everyone else. As she matured, she broke that norm and dressed the way she really wanted to.

Phong’s cousin, Emily Tran, said that she did not see her at her happiest until she was planning out her future around her clothing line.

“When she told me about how she wanted to start her own business after school, I knew that this was her dream. I’ve never seen her so driven about something before,” Tran said.

Phong said her favorite thing about fashion is that there are no limits. She hopes to found a company that has a range of several styles to fit everyone’s needs, she said.

“At the end of the day,” Phong said, “my goal is to inspire people to get out of their comfort zone.”