“Classic, greenhouse, disco.” says textile designer Fanny Shorter when asked how she thinks people would sum up her eye-catching fabrics in three words.
We asked Bhawani about the amulet around his neck. “It’s actually a locket, filled with hand-written scriptures that have been blessed by a priest to ward off the devil. I was given it 12 years ago and have worn it ever since.”
“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.
Shrawan showed us a little wooden tractor that he made in his spare time. “It reminds me of being at home. We have two cows there – we call them ‘mother cows’ because they’re sacred. They make our house holy.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“My designs tell stories about west Africa. When people are attracted to a piece, they’ll ask what inspired it. Beauty draws people in. It gives me the opportunity to discuss native parables and current issues on the continent. I always hope that when people hear them, they’ll want to help in the way I do.”
“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.”
“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 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 […]
“When I founded Kith and Kin, I wanted to create a brand that not only creates fun, quality pieces, but that also gives back to the community. There’s a lot of pressure on companies these days to produce cheaper designs, but we’ll always remain true to our ethics. We’re currently working with a charity called […]
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“My favourite colour is definitely pink. I bought this jacket a few months ago. When I saw the vibrant pink lining it just called out to me.”
“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!”
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.
“Where I come from in Hebei you can see the Great Wall from my village. It’s 60km away so I never actually went up it that often, but just seeing it there every day, looking down at you, was pretty inspiring. I still remember that view.”
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.
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.”
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 […]
“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.”
“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.”
“My favourite character on the Character Polka print is the giraffe. He’s become quite iconic; I love the way his neck pokes out playfully as if from nowhere. That’s the fun thing about this piece, you can look at it over and over and each time you’ll find a new character. I can imagine the […]
“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.”
“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.”