#mid-century modern

4 years ago · 7 min read
Anil, 34 – head of quality control.

“I check everything. Only when I’m really proud of something will I put my signature to it.” Even as we’re speaking, Anil’s eye remains on the designs being inspected around him.

4 years ago · 7 min read
Shersingh – screen printer.

“I come from Mandawa which has a tradition of painting houses with frescos. They’re like mural paintings. People from Mandawa tend to learn to paint very easily. It’s like we have inherited knowledge of it.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Wen, Gui Xiang, 45 – carpenter.

“I hate having my picture taken – I get very shy! I love to take pictures though, especially of my grandchildren. My son, his wife and their two kids live here with me. Thankfully, I get on really well with my daughter-in-law. She met my son in Guangdong through matchmakers.”

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
He, Zhen Jun – joiner.

“I started at the workshop six months ago. I used to work the 700km Guangzhou to Xiamen route as a truck driver. It was exhausting. We did eight-hours-on, eight-hours-off shifts the whole time. The worst part was that I could only come home once a year to visit my wife and son. Now I see […]

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
Li Wei, 35 – forklift driver.

Li only agreed to having his photo taken if we “made him look handsome”. He has a loud personality and a wide, confident smile. He seemed to enjoy posing.

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
Sheng, Qun, 43 – wood cutter.

“I’ve got a black dog. He’s a stray breed from the village and is only two-three months old. I call him Baobao, which means baby. It’s pretty appropriate given he basically eats what I eat, and as soon as I’m home he gets all my attention.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Ou, Yi Qing, 44 – wood moisture specialist.

“My wife and I have an agreement that whoever gets home first starts the cooking. I can’t cheat as she works here as well, in the painting department, so she’ll know if I’m just shuffling or detouring on my way home.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Yu, Ren Lin, 57 – carpenter.

“I’ve been a carpenter my whole life. I use to make furniture by hand in my village and people would travel for miles from neighboring villages to put in their requests. Back then, having wooden furniture made was a big event, once in a lifetime for most people, usually when they got married.”

4 years ago · 7 min read
Luo, Dong Lan, 51 – seamstress.

“I’ve recently become a grandmother. My son is 30 and has an adorable six-month-old daughter. I’m at work all day so his mother-in-law looks after her during the weekdays. Since I only see her on Saturdays and Sundays, I can’t help but spoil her when I do see her.”

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
Xiang, Sheng Qiu, 40 – wood laminator.

“I really admire my eldest daughter. She’s 18 and very studious, especially with science and maths. She doesn’t always get the best results, but she’s calm and patient and she keeps going. I think that’s a great attitude.”

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
Shen, Yong Ling, 58 – drawer maker.

“In the past 40 years a lot of things in the world have changed. At the core though, I don’t think I’ve changed very much as a person. I’m still the hard working person I was when I was 18. Work hard – that’s my secret to a good life.”

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
Eva Sonaike, textile designer.

“Over the last ten years there’s been a renaissance in the feeling for African textiles. The colours are vibrant and edgy, because we combine colours that most people wouldn’t put together. Aesthetically, they’re just wonderful. The world has become so much more diverse, and in turn, so have people’s style. People want to make room […]