Saigon has undergone a style revolution in recent years, so much so, that for Asian-based travellers who think nothing of hopping on a flight for a weekend break (or visa run), the city’s beautiful shops, along with its stylish restaurants and bars, are proving as alluring as the historical sights and street life.
Saigon’s shopping scene is small but it’s exquisite, with a handful of returning Vietnamese and expat designers and entrepreneurs creating beautiful things that they’re selling in equally stunning spaces. Here’s my pick of the most gorgeous stores, all located on chic Dong Khoi Street.
Hong Kong-born designer Christina Yu, a former fashion editor and designer for Shanghai Tang, who moved to Vietnam in 1995, is credited by many as having sparked Saigon’s ‘evolution’ of chic (‘evolution’ is more apt, as the fashion scene has been slow to grow here). In 1997 she simultaneously established Vietnam’s first fashion label and opened her first Ipa-Nima store (pictured above; middle row). She had just recently opened her second gorgeous shop in Saigon (and fourth in Vietnam) at 71 Pasteur Street, District 1 when we recently visited. Christina sells vibrant, exuberant handbags and accessories, famous for their flamboyant embellishments which she says she is inspired by traditional Vietnamese artisanship, old world glamour, along with travel, nature, art, and life.
77-79 Dong Khoi Street, Saigon.
Mai and her husband moved back to Vietnam from Australia in 1997, and soon after, inspired by her new surroundings, childhood memories, and traditional Vietnamese crafts, Mai started making clothes from a small studio. In 2006, she opened her stunning Dong Khoi street store (pictured above: bottom row), now arguably Saigon’s most stylish boutique and the one fashionistas should make a beeline for. Mai’s contemporary, idiosyncratic designs draw inspiration from and apply traditional Vietnamese handicrafts, such as the natural dying techniques of the ethnic minority Sa Pa people, and feature interesting embellishments and beautifully detailed appliqué and embroidery. A constant is the close attention to detail, from her signature lotus flower bronze buttons to motifs such as the dragonfly that appear on many of her pieces. All of these exquisite things are sold in a stunning store that feels like a cross between a clothing boutique and an art gallery. Mai’s own paintings hang on the walls.
132-4 Dong Khoi Street, Saigon.
Located in an elegant, light-filled, first floor space on fashionable Dong Khoi street, L’Usine (pictured above; top row) reminds me of shops in Paris and New York. The big, airy boutique was opened last year by Tib Hoang, a Vietnamese-Canadian who has moved back to Ho Chi Minh City to live. Tib stocks mostly Vietnamese brands, many made by her family and friends, along with a handful of carefully curated products from around the world. You’ll find everything here from women’s labels such as Tib’s sister’s line Trois Filles, which does sweet, flirty, feminine frocks, to Valerie Cordier’s 100% recycled clutch purses, pictured above. There are also with Moleskine notebooks, Lomo cameras and funky canvas Ho Chi Minh City shoulder bags, designed by Tib’s husband, along with a very cool café that could easily be in Sydney or Bangkok.
1st Floor, Art Arcade, 151 Dong Khoi Street, Saigon.
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