Shopping for Traditional vs. Modern Vietnamese Clothing
Planning some time for shopping in Vietnam? Headed to Hanoi’s Old Quarter for an ao dai and other traditional classics on your trip to Vietnam? Stop! Remember the last time you had that ‘What was I thinking’ moment? Maybe your weakness was the gold-trimmed sari you bought in New Delhi or the bright purple longyi that was perfect for Yangon? Wherever it was and whatever it was, wearing la vida local back home in the city suddenly feels ridiculously out-of-place.
Unquestionably, if you go to Vietnam, the same tourist takeaways are likely to grab you. The traditional floor-length silk ao daiis so delicately elegant that it whispers, Buy me! The reality is that even in Vietnam, the traditional flowing dress seems to be worn mainly by hotel desk personnel, high-end restaurant hostesses, and contestants at the Miss Ao Dai pageant.
Shopping in Vietnam – Finding Unique Designs
Of course, you’ll buy one for the special Vietnamese dinner party you’ll host when you go home or the annual costume dance, but the best deals and the most unique designs are more likely to be found in the upscale boutiques during your shopping in Vietnam. These designer shops are popping up throughout the city, including in the Old Quarter on Hang Gai, Hang Bong, and Hang Be streets.
Where can I find the Upscale Designers of Hanoi?
Both established designers and emerging ones often incorporate just enough elements of Vietnam’s traditional dress to give their clothes a touch of the past, but you, I promise, will wear these modern dresses, blouses, and tunics everywhere…and for years. When I wear my designer, dress bought at Tan My, admirers inevitably say, “Love your dress! Where did you get it?“.
Another reason to shop the unique boutiques in Hanoi is that the designers typically use the most beautiful hand-loomed silks, shantung taffeta, and embroidered fabrics at a fraction of their cost when imported to the US. Here are our favorite fashion lines and shopping stops in Hanoi:
34G Lý Nam Đế, Hanoi. The traditional influence of the designs is obvious but up-dated, so that you will wear a silk top with jeans or your favorite wide-legged pants. The rich colors, delicate embroidery, and uniquely combined textures make the dresses, pants, and tunics timeless. You’ll wear them forever.
61 Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm. Hand-embroidery is the hallmark of Tan My fabrics, which have been produced by teams of crafts people who work exclusively for the shop. Three generations of the family have overseen production, beginning in 1969 with embroidered handkerchiefs and today offering everything from bed linens to clothing and jewelry. Partnering exclusively with several different designers, Tan My carries a variety of contemporary looks made with their unique fabrics.
88 Nguyen Huu Huan St, Hoan Kiem District. Paris-trained Do Manh Cuong spent his formative years at Christian Dior and Dominique Sirop in the city of lights. Since his return to Vietnam, Do Manh Cuong is one of its most successful designers. You can shop for his exclusive and colorful designs as well as his DzDMC by Do Manh Cuongdz line in the beautifully decorated Dzolddz Hanoi boutique.
This shop has showrooms throughout Vietnam and is one of the country’s most successful fashion brands. The contemporary designs tend toward the youthful, but the classic black cocktail dresses and colorful sheath dresses are ageless. The fabrics are lovely and the clothes well-made.
33 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho. Duyen Huong honed her design skills at the London College of Fashion Studies in Hanoi. After graduating in 2009, she jumped right it to the city’s emerging fashion scene with her own designs. Today, she has her own boutique and a designated space at Tan My Design (see above). Her specialty: detailed dresses in colorful prints, all made in her Hanoi workshop.
Carry a Piece of Your Trip Home
Shopping in Vietnam is one of the best ways to carry a piece of your trip back home with you, and by purchasing unique designs that you can wear on a daily basis you’ll have a constant reminder. It’s impossible to list all the fantastic boutiques in Hanoi. These are our favorites and all are well established. But new designers pop up every day. Be prepared to be surprised during your shopping in Vietnam!