Our Hoi An shopping guide is a very selective guide to some of Hoi An’s most ethical and sustainable shops. While Hoi An may be best known for its colourful lanterns, tailored clothes, leather goods, and lacquerware, you’ll also find chic fashion, silver jewellery, stylish home décor, and cool design products. Here’s our guide to the most ethical and sustainable shops in Hoi An.
Central Vietnam’s Hoi An is an absolute delight as a shopping destination, especially for lovers of beautiful handcrafted things, local art, original fashion, and quirky gifts. When asked where travellers should to do their gift and souvenir shopping in Vietnam, I always advise people to wait until they get to Hoi An.
Yes, there are gorgeous things to buy in Vietnam‘s big cities of Saigon and Hanoi as well. Hue also has a few gems, and Sapa and the surrounding market towns are a must for textile lovers. But Hoi An shopping is the best. The enchanting lantern-lit town has everything you’ll find in the other cities and more, along with some real treasures, such as Reaching Out.
Plus Hoi An is just such a joy to shop in, thanks to its peaceful riverside setting (even when its jam-packed with tourists it still somehow feels serene), its largely pedestrianised streets (traffic is only permitted to pass through the ancient quarter at particular times leaving long periods when it’s people only), and the ease of having all the best shops in close proximity (it’s no drama to walk back to the first place you spotted something you liked).
Add to that there is plenty of ethical and sustainable shopping to be had in Hoi An, as long as you avoid the factory made tourist tat that you’ll see all over Asia and buy locally made, homegrown products and shop at social enterprises such as Reaching Out and ethical fashion boutiques such as Metiseko. Click through to this post for more tips on shopping ethically and sustainably and why it’s so important.
Hoi An Shopping Guide – Our Guide to Hoi An’s Most Ethical and Sustainable Shops
Reaching Out Arts and Crafts
Set in a handsome two-storey building that was a soap factory during the French-colonial period, Reaching Out Arts and Crafts has beautiful jewellery, exquisite ceramics and tea sets, and lovely home-wares, and handcrafted gifts made on the premises by Vietnamese artisans with disabilities. Started by a local couple, one of whom has a disability, they operate Reaching Out much like a cooperative, based upon fair trade principles. This means that you can be sure they’re looking after their people, they’re working in good conditions, being treated with respect, and being paid fairly – things you don’t know when you buy handicrafts from any old shop as some of the tourist trinkets sold across Asia are made in sweatshops. I love their elegant silver lantern and dragonfly earrings and necklaces, their hand-bound notebooks covered in pretty floral fabrics, and their cool reversible cotton shopping bags that fold up to virtually nothing. There’s also a lovely range of children’s clothes and handmade toys. They also have the serene Reaching Out Tea House nearby, which is ran by deaf and hearing-impaired staff and has a tranquil courtyard and a wide range of Vietnamese teas. It’s a wonderful spot to rest your weary feet after a morning of Hoi An shopping.
Reaching Out Arts and Crafts, 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An, 8.30am-9.30pm Mon-Fri, 9.30am-8.30pm Sat & Sun, Reaching Out website
Established in Hoi An in 2011 and located in a beautifully remodelled, traditional old wooden house with a light-filled central courtyard, Metiseko is one of the real highlights of Hoi An shopping. I could think of few more pleasant places to browse their range of stylish men’s and women’s fashion, children’s clothes, accessories, and home décor, including bed linen, quilts and cushion covers. Founded by a French designer, creative director Florence Mussou, Metiseko is operated by a small team of French-Vietnamese designers, who are great believers in sustainability and ethical production, they also operate on fair trade principles and everything is eco-friendly, having been certified organic (look for the Organic Content Standard label) and made without use of chemicals from organic cotton and refined silk which comes mostly from Vietnam’s central highlands. The certification, along with their local sourcing and production, enables them to trace each step of the supply chain, from the cultivation of organic cotton and sourcing of natural raw materials for the silk to weaving, printing, dyeing and manufacturing of the finished product. While some of the textile patterns look very Japanese (check out their gorgeous Sakura clutch purses), the designers say the main inspiration for their collections is Vietnam itself and its culture and nature, along with “paintings, landscapes, architecture, plants and ceramics.” Along with a second (adjoining) boutique in Hoi An, Metiseko also has three boutiques and a café in Ho Chi Minh City now and sells via an e-shop on their website.
Metiseko, 140-42 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An, 8.30am-9.30pm daily, Metiseko website
Chula is another completely original but sadly much-imitated label (copied even by tailors located near their boutique in Hoi An), established by Spanish-born expats Laura Fontan and Diego Cortizas in Hanoi in 2004 after they travelled to Vietnam and fell head over heels for the city and country. The couple’s inspiration for Chula’s collections of women’s wear and accessories is Vietnam and its people, culture and cuisine. Handmade and made in small numbers, the distinctive designs of dresses, jackets, coats, ponchos, skirts, scarves, and ao dai (the long traditional tunics that Vietnamese women wear, especially in the north) are distinguished by bold use of colour, stitching, appliqué, embroidery, and stamps. I especially love their pieces that incorporate pieces of fabric from the ethnic minorities of Vietnam’s north, as if a homage to those women and their textile crafts. Like Metiseko, Chula is another highlight of Hoi An shopping, an ethical producer working in collaboration with small local communities in Northern Vietnam, and employing 60 skilled artisans, 75 percent of whom have some sort of physical disability. In addition to the beautiful Hoi An shop with its lovely shaded courtyard (located opposite Ms Ly Café, one of our favourite Hoi An restaurants), they also have two boutiques in Hanoi and a shop in Bangkok and one in Madrid.
Chula, 11 Nguyen Hue Street, Hoi An, 9am-9pm daily. Chula website.
Another must on any Hoi An shopping list is Ginkgo. Frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t find any cool t-shirts to take back home, French traveller Benjamin Grepinet started Ginkgo in 2006 with the help of his girlfriend Vu Thi Lan. The couple opened their first Ginkgo T-Shirts shop in a six square-metre space in Saigon in 2007 and now run ten t-shirt and concept stores in Saigon, Hanoi and Hoi An, where they have three shops. Inspired by everyday life and culture in Vietnam, their t-shirt designs are some of the most recognisable and most coveted by travellers, especially their best-selling ‘Vietnam Telecom’ t-shirt featuring a silhouette of a couple of electricity and phone poles bound together by a tangle of cables – a typical sight on most Vietnam street corners. They also sell long sleeved tees, hoodies and tank tops for men, women, and kids, as well as accessories, such as their popular bold-coloured canvas backpacks and camouflaged bags. Like Metiseko and Chula, ethics and the environment are also important to Ginkgo. They are a fair trade business, and are passionate about using sustainable, natural materials and have a range of organic t-shirts and have been active in seeking out and supporting local designers and products. At their concept stores, they sell some 25 Vietnamese brands, from Very Ngon Homewares to Marou Chocolate.
Ginkgo, 93 Tran Phu Street, 133 Tran Phu Street and 59 Le Loi Street, Hoi An, 8am-10pm. Ginkgo website.
Do you live in Hoi An or frequent the enchanting port city? We’d love to get your Hoi An shopping tips. Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments below.