“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 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.”
“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.”
“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 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 […]
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“I have two men in my life. My six-year-old son is incredibly naughty and just loves to play. And my husband, I nag him a lot. He seems to just deal with it, which is great…for me. What would men do without us?”
“My parents were expecting a girl so when I was born, they gave me a girl’s name. I got teased a bit at school because of my name, so I started trying to make everybody laugh. I was as nice to them as possible and it worked – after a few months no-one teased me […]
“I’m an adventurer. I left home at 14 and have moved from city to city ever since. The country is so boring. I love city life. And because I’m friendly and kind, people like me – so I always make friends easily.”
“My friends say the worst thing about me is stubbornness. That I never admit when I’m wrong.”
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 […]
We asked Fu Jiao what she likes to do in her spare time. “I’m too old to have fun anymore!”
“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 […]
Surrounded by vibrant green rice fields and ponds full of shrimp, the workshop where the legs for the Mimi are crafted is easy to miss. From two and three-seater sofas to armchairs and ottomans, each Mimi is inspired by Fifties design with legs that have been tapered in the iconic mid-century shape.