Normality resumes. And while there are people who can’t wait to eat out, and others who can’t wait to sip a cocktail in their favorite bar, there’s some for whom it’s all about shopping. So, we checked in with three of Saigon’s coolest female designers to find out what’s new for the fashionistas among us.
Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt
The opportunities for online shopping are endless. But there’s something about physically being in a store – rummaging through the racks, striking up a conversation with the store owner or fellow shoppers, those kinds of things. To point you in the direction here we present three of our favorite stores, and we’ve already struck up the conversation with the owners, on your behalf…time to rebuild that post-COVID wardrobe for all tomorrow’s parties.
Anyone who knows fashion here, knows Nga Wendy. She’s become something of a fashion icon for young Vietnamese. And her brand, COBLE, has what you need for every occasion, from outfits to party in to mix-and-match daily basics. “How would I introduce COBLE?” she asks. “I’d say it’s suitable for everyone. I don’t want to define a specific customer segment. Fashion should be this versatile thing. And anyone is welcome here…”
The COBLE journey really began with Nga Wendy’s fashion shoots. “Right, I was a fashionista with lots of campaigns for brands. And people wanted to know more about what I was wearing. So, I figured I’d start my own brand. For now, I’m really pushing the brand on digital platforms with a view to going global one day.”
What do you want customers to feel when they wear COBLE?
I’m always thinking about how to make my designs find a balance so that they can be worn anytime. Usually, brands create styles for the daytime that can be worn at night, but I take the opposite approach, creating party clothes that work at the office. Besides that, I want people to feel satisfied with the quality of my products, from the design to the materials I use.
Where do you go to get inspired?
Inspiration happens for me spontaneously. It can come from anywhere, even from my customers. I pay close attention to what they’re wearing and take ideas that I can apply to my own designs.
What’s your view of the fashion industry here?
The growth over the last few years has been really quick. The positioning of local brands and their image is better defined than ever. But it’s becoming more competitive than ever, too. That’s a good thing. Brands have to work even harder to stand out.
Which other local brands do you like?
Linh Bui has been in it since the beginning. It’s thanks to pioneers like her that hundreds more brands have been born and blossomed. Eight years in the business have given her some insights into what works, and what doesn’t in fashion in Vietnam too, and it’s granted her a keen eye to understand the stage in the evolution of the industry we’re at right now. “Despite the pandemic, I feel the industry is peaking. There’s been lots of new local brands launched, and cool projects realized, but I wonder what’s next. Usually after a peak will come a fall. So, let’s see. These are fascinating times,” Linh begins.
What made you begin your journey with LIBÉ Workshop? And after domestic domination, do you have plans to go international?
Back when we launched, the brand reflected my needs. I wanted simple essentials…clothes I could easily mix and match. But there wasn’t anything out there for me. So, I found producers and set to making them for myself. Then, I discovered what I wanted was the same as what other people wanted. I still haven’t considered expanding beyond Vietnam. But one day, who knows? More important for me is being local with a global mindset and standard, so people choose LIBÉ over international alternatives.
What are your most out-there inspirations?
One project stands out for being unusual, but meaningful to me. We engage a group of women to produce a line that honored breasts – a body part that’s been sexualized by society. Social norms sometimes irritate me. Take wearing a bra. Whether someone wears one or not, is not the issue. It’s whether a woman feels obliged or forced to wear one to conform that irritates me. From that came our Blooming T-shirts. People liked it. Mostly. Some were confused. Maybe next time we’d work harder to explain the concept, but despite that, it was a very meaningful project.
That’s great. What other messages do you and LIBÉ Workshop have to share with consumers?
Mostly, I’m satisfied with providing customers with a chance to find joy in wearing our products. At the same time, I love that they can learn to understand their body type, and to love themselves for who they are and whatever shape they are. I hope LIBÉ Workshop can provide that kind of positive impact on the community here.
Besides that, as I touched on before, LIBÉ Workshop is about supporting local. By buying Vietnamese, you help develop the industry.
Besides your LIBÉ Workshop, which three local brands do you admire?
Definitely Kilomet109. They have a very talented team. And the way they embrace but also evolve traditions, working with locals and ethnic minorities for example, is really inspiring. They simultaneously manage to build the brand while raising awareness of Vietnam’s heritage both her and internationally.
Then there’s aeie. They’re another bold and creative company that’s consumer-friendly too. Everybody loves their style. And me as well. Finally, I’m choosing DEADEND. I really got into this brand when I discovered their workwear lines. So trendy and youthful. They have a great way of telling stories too, that mix cultural values with contemporary living. Definitely my choice for the best unisex brand with great quality and price.
The Freckles Studios
We’re fans of Freckles Studios. What’s not to love? Founder Quyen Tran is super-stylish and her Studios’ social media pops with good vibes and energy. Her designs are colorful and tend towards more petite sizes. And you could sum up the brand and its founder in one sentence: “Cute but sexy.” Quyen and her brand are that hard to separate. “I do think I am my brand and my brand is me!” she laughs. “And I’m pretty weird, an introvert and an extrovert who’s a bit adventurous too. Does that sound conflicting?” she asks. On the plus, her mindset imbues the brand with a restless energy. “I change often and so does Freckles Studios, so I hope it’s hard to pin down our style exactly…” she adds. Her pop-up stores, usually with their own unique theme are a good access point to the brand. “The pop-up store perfectly represents my closets, a complexion of colors and styles. There’s cool street vibes, chic and elegance, or sexy and cute, depending on my mood….”
Where do you get inspired?
Oh. Everywhere. I follow a lot of influencers around the world. I’m on Instagram a lot, Pinterest, YouTube, then out in the street…
So what’s next for Freckles Studios?
We launched on Christmas Day. I love that holiday. I was depressed moving back to Vietnam and fashion was the only thing I felt passionate about. I didn’t have much start-up capital, so I started small. Actually, in the beginning, I had another job to make ends meet. Finally, I quit to focus full-time on Freckles Studios. And that’s when I focused on creating a brand and not just an online store.
Now we’ve launched our ‘Thuong Thoi’ collection, clothes to wear in these post-pandemic ‘new normal’ days. The clothes are bright and flexible, just like Saigon feels right now. And after this, I plan to collaborate with a streetwear brand to produce hoodies, sweatshirts and sweatpants.
I have to confess, my ambitions are limitless. Dreaming is free, right? I’d love to take Freckles Studios international, to represent Vietnamese fashion in the world.
Can you describe the fashion scene here for us?
Wow, my IG feed pops with new brands every day. The styles are diverse too. I guess it’s easy to start a business these days, especially an online one. It’s harder to become a distinctive one. That’s been the goal at Freckles Studios, almost like Freckles is a real person you can associate with. Details like a tone of voice are sometimes missing with brands.
Sizing remains an issue. Even the smallest sizes sometimes don’t fit me in stores. I hear other people having the same problem too. I listen to customers a lot. We note down feedback, especially around measurements, and adjust.
And besides yours, which are your favorite local brands?
Definitely LIBÉ Workshop – and not just because we’re in this article together! They’re a solid brand who are always inspiring. Check their IG for evidence. Then aeie studios, who have great styles delivering in a distinctive way. They weren’t really my vibe at first, but that’s changed. Now I’m super into their styles. It’s like they have this magic power to turn people from “nah, not my thing” into “let me try!” Then there’s Paradise4Saigon and DEADEND. Two brands representing the culture in a fun, freestyle way. And are you sure I can’t choose Freckles Studios too? Please. We work really hard!