Story: TINA DO

“The pattern on every brocade fabric is different. Each detail is made by artisans whose fastidious attention is evident in every single stitch.”

Designer Minh Hanh has emerged at the forefront of the Vietnamese fashion industry through elevating and promoting brocade in her creations. Her upbringing in the mountain town of Pleiku (Gia Lai Province) familiarized her with the fabric, which is commonly used by Central Highlands ethnic minorities to make clothes. Minh Hanh is not only an industry leader but also a keen promoter of Vietnam’s cultural values. Her ao dai are ambassadors, bringing both the traditional garment’s elegant lines and the beauty of brocade to the world. For many years, the designer has worked closely with A Luoi District Brocade Weaving Cooperative, and helped Ta Oi zeng brocade blossom on the runways of major domestic and international events.

The Sac Nui collection designed by Chula

The Hue Traditional Crafts Festival 2015 saw the exhibition of the first fashion collection made from zeng fabric. In 2016, as part of the launch of the Vietnam House project in France, Minh Hanh presented her Breathing Through the Mountain Forests of Vietnam collection using fabric from the Ta Oi and H’mong (Ha Giang Province) peoples. For this occasion, she also invited ethnic artisans to France to demonstrate their talents on traditional looms.

The Sac Nui collection designed by Chula

Representing the next generation, designer Pham Ngoc Anh of the La Pham brand also highlights brocade. “If we could only use one adjective to describe brocade, La Pham would choose ‘unique’,’” Ngoc Anh says. “The pattern on every brocade fabric is different. Each detail is made by artisans whose fastidious attention is evident in every single stitch.” Ngoc Anh’s love for brocade began five years ago and each year since La Pham has released a collection featuring the fabric. With a desire to preserve Vietnamese cultural values, the La Pham label is looking to bring brocade to everyday fashion through modern and highly wearable designs.

) The Sac Nui collection designed by Chula

In 2021, La Pham partnered with Empower Women Asia (EWA) to promote awareness and kickstart the spread of brocade’s applicability in fashion on an international scale. Two fashion shows held in 2022 in Switzerland were well-received by international observers and even ethnic groups in the far reaches of Vietnam. La Pham is currently supporting various stakeholders in three mountainous regions in applied brocade fashion designs: Dak Nong, with a majority of Ede people; Ban Gioc (Cao Bang Province) with the Tay and Nung; and Den Thang (Lao Cai Province) with the H’mong people.

The collection of La Pham

The Vietnamese fashion industry is also home to a special brand helmed by a Spanish designer with a connection of over 20 years to the country and a lasting love for traditional brocade. Chula Fashion House is linked with the late Diego Chula, a famous fashion designer in Hanoi. He and his family arrived in Vietnam in 2004 and fell in love with fashion in 2005.

The Chula brand blends traditional details of Vietnamese culture with modern Western sensibilities. With a deep dedication to the unique identity of his adopted homeland, Chula promoted fashion designs steeped in national hallmarks on domestic and international runways.

Chula’s brocade collections were exhibited at the “Forest Fragrances and Mountain Beauties” show as part of the 2020 Vietnam Weaving Culture Festival. After that, Chula was invited to create a new brocade collection, Mosaics of Vietnam, for exhibition in The Eternal Flow art show in Dubai. However, the designer suddenly passed away in October 2021, after he had just finished sketching the designs. His wife Laura continued the plans he left behind, and the collection was eventually exhibited in Dubai on Vietnam National Day, December 30, 2021.