Vietnam

4 years ago · 7 min read
Luu, 34 – carpenter.

“My daughter has just turned two. My parents and uncles all saved up to buy her a gold ring that she can wear on special occasions – it’s just like my wedding ring. We have to stop her swallowing it though; she chews everything!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Mei Li Jing, 59 – wood washer.

“My husband and I scrimped and scraped to put our girls through school, and now they’re both in their 30s. My elder daughter works in Shanghai and my younger one’s a nurse in the city. They don’t come home very often, but we speak every night on the phone. We’re very close”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Đāo, 30 – seamstress.

“My favourite thing to do on pay day is to buy myself some gold jewellery. My husband only owns one gold ring, but he’s very understanding of my habit and saves up to buy me things too.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hai, 37 – upholsterer.

“I had a near-death experience in 2000. I came off of my bike in front of a car. I smashed my arm and chest and was in a coma for 15 days. But when my girlfriend came to visit she yelled at me to wake up. So I did. Then I married her!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Vuong – button maker.

“I was born in the year of the goat. It happened to be the year that Tet celebrations took place this February. What happens during Tet is very important – it sets up what’s to come for the rest of the year. My Tet holiday didn’t go so well.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Nhut, 30 – designer of the Erika collection.

“I trained as an interior designer in Vietnam, but really wanted to learn more. I thought working on furniture would be a good stepping-stone. Six and a half years later though and I’m still designing furniture. I just love it. It’s my calling.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Thăng, 40 – upholsterer.

“There’s no point in stressing about life. Every situation has a solution, and if you stay calm and let time pass, you’ll figure it out.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Phong, 30 – upholsterer.

“I dyed my hair myself with henna for the Lunar New Year and girls seem to like it.” Phong is the workshop heart throb. Several of the women had mentioned him to us. We could tell just from the way he walked.

4 years ago · 7 min read
Dating, Vietnamese style.

In England, it would be rare to hear a couple say that they went on a date at the side of the motorway or on a bridge, and that instead of going to each other’s houses they hang out in the park. But in Vietnam, our eyes were opened to another world of dating.

4 years ago · 7 min read
Truong – frame constructor.

“When I’m not working, I spend most of my time playing football. I’m a fan of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United. My favourite player is Messi because he’s so passionate. I’d love to be like him.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Giāo, 45 – leg sander.

“It doesn’t take me long to get to work – I live just 500m away amongst the shrimp ponds and rice fields. I’ve lived there my whole life.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Chuyên, 29 – frame constructor.

“I’ve been working here for three years, since I left my hometown in the south to come to Saigon. I used to look after baby shrimp in the delta, getting them to grow up big and fat.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Bertil, 30 – designer.

“I came to Vietnam looking for an adventure. I never expected to stay long – I told my dad I’d be here for three months. That was 12 years ago.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Quôc, 22 – webbing specialist.

“I moved to Saigon three years ago when I was 19. My older brother came too and now we live and work together, but somehow we never fight! We didn’t fight when we were children either.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Sang, 35 – upholsterer.

“Every evening after work I go to the river and sit there until about 10pm. I find it so relaxing – I love the peace and quiet. Sometimes, if the fishing’s good, I’ll stay there all night. You can catch a lot of fish overnight.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Chung, 25 – seating specialist.

“I bought this necklace in my hometown, Thanh Hoá. I was feeling a bit rundown and someone told me that the tooth would ward off fevers and colds. It’s true – it even cures hangovers!”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Mimi, 25, account manager and inspiration for the Mimi collection.

Mimi has been living in Saigon for three years. She moved over from Denmark after university. “My connection to Denmark is much stronger than to Vietnam; although both my parents are Vietnamese. My father fled to Denmark during the Vietnamese war. He met my mother there. She’d run from the war too.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: the art of modern design.

In the designer’s studio, the walls are covered in mood boards, photos, magazine cutouts, hand-drawn doodles of sofas and chairs, and elaborate floral patterns. When it comes to designing a sofa like our Mimi or any of the beautiful pieces that come from the workshop, Bertil, one of the designers looks all over for inspiration […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hai, 32 – head of QC.

“I’m pretty keen on history. I like the Hung Kings,” he says of the kings who ruled Vietnam from 2879 BC. “I’ve memorised all their names. But if I could live in any time, I would want to live under Ho Chi Minh. That would be an honour.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Thu Suong, 30 – seamstress.

“My favourite films are romances, but I’ve never experienced anything overly romantic. Not even on Valentine’s Day – my husband and I just stay in. It would be so romantic if one day, he gave me a rose.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Phúc, 22 – lathe turner.

Phúc hardly says a word, but his eyes are fixed on us at all times – occasionally he drags them away to look at the translator, but within moments they’re back again. “Is everything OK?” we ask him. “Yes, it’s just that I’ve never seen a foreigner before.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Vietnamese martial art: meeting a master.

Rows of children kneel on the floor, dressed in black, green belts tied around their waists, swords and staffs spinning around their heads. They move through a sequence of movements, their belts swishing with every swift turn. It’s nearly sunset as we pass the youth club, stopping to ask the teacher if we can photograph […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight: crafting covered buttons.

Sitting on what looks to be an old wooden school desk in the corner of the sewing section of the workshop, is an ancient-looking button press. No one knows exactly how old it is; it’s been there for as long as anyone can remember. Vuong turns a wheel that’s bound with ragged material for grip, […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Hand-made from start to finish – crafting the Felix armchair.

In the workshop, artisans work to the beat, punch, and hum of a motley collection of tools. A chorus of noise that, Du tells us, he doesn’t even notice anymore. The components of the Felix armchair having already been traced and cut to shape, he takes the pine pieces and assembles the frame with lightening […]

4 years ago · 7 min read
Du, 34, assembling artisan.

“I take photos of my children with me everywhere I go. If I’m having a tough day, or if I’m feeling tired, I just have to flick through my phone and I feel much better.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Mr Ro, 60, workshop manager.

“I love Sundays. I tend to meet up with my friends and drink coffee. I love a good Vietnamese coffee but these days, you have to be very careful. Lots of places sell fake coffee, made of soy beans and chemicals. I refuse to drink it.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Under the spotlight – making mid-century style legs.

A tropical garden grows at the front of the workshop with big trees and awnings to provide shade from the extraordinary Vietnamese heat. Inside, planks of oak sit on a carpet of sawdust, waiting to be made into legs for our Mimi sofas, armchairs, ottomans and pouffes. “The best quality wood is marked red,” our […]