If you are looking for something truly unique, individual and interesting to take back home, head to shops like Villagecraft Planet in Phan Boi Chau Street. Owned by Huong Hoang and her husband, Keith, the shop sells clothing for children and adults, handbags, accessories and home décor that feature the intricate handwoven motifs and designs of some of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups.
Whether it be the tablet-sized bags imprinted with beeswax or indigo batik or blankets speckled with the colorful birds, each piece has a story. Perhaps, though, the most inspiring story is that of Huong Hoang who is providing an avenue that will lift groups like the Hmong, Black Thai and Lo Lo out of the hopeless life of hardship so many face.
‘Whilst the minority groups make money selling their fabrics to tourists’, says Huong ‘they still lack the 21st century business savvy to get their goods to a bigger market.’
Huong works directly with the impoverished and uneducated women who make the textiles she uses in her designs. She pays them market-driven prices and shares practical business advice. “We help each other,” she says.
Villagecraft Planet’s ethical business practices are punctuated by the fact that most of their products are made from natural dyes and eco-friendly hemp – not only a sustainable material but among one the most durable natural fabrics on earth.
Prices are not the cheapest in town but when you consider these unique designs tell the story of some of Vietnam’s most overlooked people, they are priceless.
(adapted from a feature by former Live Hoi An Magazine’s, Charlie Reed top photo ©Matthew DAKIN / NOI Pictures Village Craft Planet, 2011)