Meeting Johnny Dang was a lot of fun and an honor. A designer and entrepreneur extraordinaire, he welcomed us into his VIP room which was set up in opulent style. His new building on Richmond is a true representation of his brand. He is sharply dressed with a gleam in his eye as he shows me his watch which sparkles with black diamonds and beautiful gray tones, he winks and says, “Part of my new collection”. We sit at his desk which is a large beautiful marble top with ornate gilded gold legs. The more I see, the more curious I get.
Q: How long have you been in Houston?
A: I came to Houston in 1996, 21years ago, so I came here when I was 22. So not that long ago; but still, a long time.
Q: Where were you born?
A: In Vietnam, Buon Ma Thuot, a small city on the south side of Vietnam, a very small village. You barely see it on the map.
Q: What was your parents’ business, and what was your life like there?
A: When I was in Vietnam, of course, I went to school and college. My mom sold clothes in the market.
Q: What got you started in the custom jewelry business?
A: Actually, my grandparents had done it before 1975, so in my mind, I had some idea from knowing them. When I came here in 1996 my cousin had a jewelry booth at the flea market. After being bored a few days, he asked me to go and work with him. I earned $500 in 6 months, my first ever American money. I was so happy. So that is how we started. He had a booth with two jewelry repair stations. We did repairs, custom jewelry, nameplates.
Q: How many locations do you have?
A: I was able to grow into three locations, opening the third in the Galleria where I was for many years until recently when I acquired this building. This will be the main location from now on, but I will keep my first location in what is now Plaza de las Americas, making it two in Houston.
Q: So, you design most of the jewelry?
A: I started with custom work for the local Rap, Hip Hop, and Athletic stars. In Hip Hop and Rap, especially, they like to wear what they create using their group logo or personal symbols. Whatever they come up with, we can create for them.
Q: What are your plans?
A: Well, I always dreamed I would have my own manufacturing and my own building. I have that here now. I always wanted that for my clients. I can now open and close whenever I want. I can stay as long as I want and meet my clients when creativity hits them. I bought the building, so I plan to be here a long time creating and designing. We have The Johnny Dang watch collection, and we release a few new designs every year. The reason my company got so popular was because we create something no one else has. We invented the invisible set grill. I’m the first one to create a black diamond collection. We set trends and create one of a kind pieces. This year we plan to release many new things. I’ve had my website TVJohnny.net for almost 20 years, so that is where you will be able to see what we are doing.
A: I was in Vietnam during a time when there was no power, no water services, no TV. I don’t think most people realize what that is really like. They may see it on TV but have never lived it. Once a year I do a big fundraiser for people in Vietnam. There is also a leprosy population that I visited two years ago that my team sends donations to a few times a year. My team loves to give back. During Harvey we used my construction company, J D Construction, to help clean up and fix houses. In fact, I built this building.
Q: Did you design it? Or did you work with someone?
A: I have a friend who helped me with the design, but I built it with my company.
The Houston entertainment industry will be seeing many more custom bling designs and new trends by Johnny Dang. Our very own King of Bling!