A FASHION LOVER'S GUIDE TO - Hanoi, Vietnam
I've been travelling back and forth to Asia for nearly 20 years. Yes, I love the weather and the beaches and the temples, but the real draw for me is that the cities are forever changing; I find them fascinating. Some visitors mourn the evolution, and want their treasured destinations to remain frozen in time, but I love places that hold on tight to their past whilst also embracing the future. And whilst Hanoi was a new destination for me, it had me hooked from the word go and I know I'll be back again to see how it has changed. The food, the architecture and the people were all great, but it was the fashion and textiles scene that was authentic and exciting.
Hanoi’s location is the key to its success. It’s proximity to the hills in the north means that it’s awash with embroidery, weave and indigo dye from the various hill tribes. And it’s accessibility to China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea mean that lots of product is catered to those markets, so it’s different. I didn’t set eyes on a Zara for a month, it was bliss. Apart from the shops mentioned below, I loved to see what people wore in the street too, especially at the weekend by the lake (hence the above illustration).
I sought out local designers on Instagram before I went, and in doing so I stumbled across lots of brilliant Instagram accounts that led me to more. The Kindcraft, run by Lauren Lancy who I met in Laos in 2014, connected me to Kilomet 109. The Australian duo WalkSewGood who were walking across Asia just before I flew out introduced me to Module 7. Emily Lush, another friend from Luang Prabang who now lives in Hanoi gave me some tips too on what areas to check out that I might not have otherwise heard about. And then I found the wonderful Lucy Patterson, a kiwi with an unparalleled knowledge of ethnic minority textiles, who led me to specific shops in back streets and connected me with a fabulous friend in Sapa too (I'll be writing a separate Sapa post soon). I went to the places people suggested but I also just followed my nose, got lost a bit and uncovered some other gems along the way.
And so here’s my list of some great places to seek out if you’re in Hanoi. Please do comment with some other suggestions as I will use those when I go back.
Head upstairs in this shop (downstairs is the usual tourist fare) to discover floor to ceiling ethnic minority textiles, and get ready to rummage! Whilst I was there I met some buyers from the US who were filling their bags full of embroidered indigo pieces to sell in LA. Super cool.
This beautifully curated shop is full of high quality ethnic minority textiles. My highlight was seeing a stunning Hmong ceremonial jacket made of the shiniest indigo dyed hemp. Expect to pay $300 and up for the special pieces. It's a tiny store but it's worth the visit.
Located opposite the Temple of Literature this shop has two floors of fashion and textiles, with a room of people dyeing fabric and sewing garments on the top, so do ask if you can see the workroom. As well as new pieces there is a vintage collection too. There’s also free information about indigo dyeing that you can take away.
This stylish concept store stocks the amazing clothing brand Kilomet 9 as well as many other small Vietnamese brands. You’ll find homeware, soft furnishing and fragrance too, as well as the most beautiful silk scarves.
This contemporary Vietnamese brand had me transfixed from their Instagram page. It took a little while to find the shop, but once I did it was worth it. It’s all one size though, meaning that althought it will fit any Vietnamese person. I couldn’t wedge myself in to a thing. Hopefully they will offer more sizes in future, I totally loved the silhouettes, fabric and colour. Super modern.
This high end Vietnamese design store is home to a beautiful range of clothing. The fabrics and the finish are both exquisite. Again, the sizing is tiny, so don’t expect to find anything to buy unless you are super slim. However they did say they could tailor make to any size.
The window at this store drew me in and I then found a beautiful display of high end pieces. Lots of colour and some bold jacquards.
Nothing too amazing to write home about, but a new store of a chain that stems from Ho Chi Minh City. Commercial and affordable.
Located next to St Josephs Cathedral this is worth visiting for the old yellow building alone. Come to see lots of hand embroidered pieces.
After a pit stop at Tranquil Coffee I decided to follow my nose, and happened upon this Vintage shop. And something happened that never happens to me, I found a vintage dress that I loved in a size 14. The photo below is of the alley you go down to find the shop. Good luck seeking this one out!
Thanks so much for reading, and do let me know if this was helpful in the comments below. And do also follow me on Instagram to keep up with my travels and my sketchbooks!