“I take inspiration from all kinds of gardens and create my own, imaginary one, to bring a natural atmosphere to interiors” says Claire De Quénetain, our latest Designer Edition’s creator.
“Classic, greenhouse, disco.” says textile designer Fanny Shorter when asked how she thinks people would sum up her eye-catching fabrics in three words.
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“The Vietnamese are very friendly – but not immediately! You have to spend some more time with us, then we’ll open up to you.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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!”
Long rectangular planks of pine arrive wrapped in plastic all the way from New Zealand. Like gifts waiting to be opened. Artisans cut them down to smaller, more manageable pieces, piling them up in Jenga-like towers in the middle of the floor, ready for crafting the Mimi three-seater sofa.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“I had a difficult childhood. I lost my mum and dad early in my life and thinking about it still breaks my heart.”
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, […]
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 […]
“My friends say the worst thing about me is stubbornness. That I never admit when I’m wrong.”
“I love to watch singing competition shows on TV. I used to play the horn in a band and I enjoy singing traditional Chinese songs. I always like to think I’m musical but I was never very good. I don’t have a great voice and I’m definitely not going to sing for you right now!”
“I have two kids, a son aged 14 and a daughter aged eight. My son lives in Guizhou with my family. He’s pretty introverted and often when we speak on the phone the conversation stops, and he doesn’t want to say anything more. I guess that’s teenagers, but I still find it sad.”
“In my spare time I play a lot of basketball. As you can see, I’m pretty tall. I started playing at university and I still play regularly. These days it’s more about keeping fit and messing around with the boys than playing anything really competitive.”
Vuong has a long scar down the underside of his left arm. “I had a motorbike accident. No-one else was hurt. I should have been more careful though.”
“Jade is for protection. I took my bracelet to a Buddhist temple and left it overnight with a monk to be blessed. It’s really necessary – there are lots of ghosts in my hometown. I’ve never seen one but I know people who have. If you see a shadow flying around your head, that’s a […]
“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.”
“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.”
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 […]
Nguyen turns his forearm towards himself and looks at the heart being punctured by an arrow. “It’s for love, I think, I can hardly remember. It was done a really long time ago when I was 19 and a soldier.”
The machine pops, cracks, and whooshes with the release of a pressure valve. Gui Xiang is stood beside it, putting holes into solid oak pieces that have been cut into shape for the Karla armchair’s frame.