In the mid-1990s, this flamboyant handbag designer swapped a career in litigation in her hometown of Hong Kong for a life of fashion design in Vietnam, where she founded Ipa-Nima, one of the best-known accessory labels in this increasingly cosmopolitan nation. We asked her for the lowdown on high street shopping in the city many people still call Saigon.
Author Connla Stokes Photography Aaron Joel Santos
How would you describe the local fashion scene?
It’s a little bit bohemian, a little bit Gangnam and a little bit Japanese office ladies style. Due to the weather, I often find girls dress quite casual here. Affluent, fashion-conscious locals might go with a Chanel or Hermès bag, a tote from Michael Kors or Prada and killer heels—worn every day, everywhere.
Are there many young, experimental designers here?
It’s difficult for emerging designers to be experimental, but there are exceptional cases, such as Minh Hanh, who uses traditional techniques and fabrics in a very alternative yet Vietnamese way, and Mai Lam, who is in a similar vein but edgier.
So what stores should we include on a Saigon shopping spree?
One of my favorite places has to be It’s Happened to be a Closet, which is set up like a vintage store inside a wardrobe. I also love Tyler Ho for its great fabrics and cuts. For an amazing evening piece, I will go to the designer Nguyen Cong Tri’s boutique, Kin Concept.
Take us through your outfit today.
I love colors and prints, and this outfit from Jaspal in Bangkok is perfect for the Ho Chi Minh City summer—it’s not too dressy for me to go to the factory in the morning, but it also works for cocktail hour. My sunglasses come from a shop called Lyn Around, a Thai label that recreates quirky retro items, and I picked up my shoes in Shibuya, Tokyo. The bucket bag is Pisces, from Ipa-Nima’s spring-summer 2014 collection, and the bracelet is by Charmés, one of my favorite jewelry stores in Ho Chi Minh City.