Organised by the Viet Nam National Textile and Garment group (Vinatex) and its partners, including the Viet Nam Fashion and Design Institute (Fadin), the event showcased 200 new designs by young faces like Ngoc Dieu and Van Khoa that dazzled foreign and local audiences, some working for international fashion brand names that have opened outlets in Viet Nam.
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Sure, the fabric might have been lace or metallic, just like on the catwalks in New York or Tokyo this season, but their shapes were distinctly Vietnamese, and distinctly individual.
Young designer Bich Ha, who works for Viet Tien s brands Bulliant and Three Camels, said, "Despite the economic recession, we have gained results in selling our clothes."
Ha s collection of 25 designs used lemon yellow, silver-grey and metallic the season s rage in the west.
Her colleague, Van Khoa, used dye-washed and carbon-washed fabric because "everyone, irrespective of age and sex, poor or rich, is interested in [it]," he said.
While Ha and Khoa love the latest foreign trends, their competitor, Trong Nguyen of Viet Thang, said: "My way is to adopt global styles but in an individual manner."
Nguyen presented 20 creations under the brand name Smart Casual, using cotton and linen, mostly ready-to-wear.
For Nguyen, designing is like shopping. "I think about what my friends and I want to wear before making the clothes," said the 28-year-old who has played a key role in expanding the new brand name established two years ago.
The two nights also featured more than 40 top models from fashion agencies in Ha Noi and HCM City.
"Through the event, we introduced our customers to our latest collections, new brand names and fashion projects," said Le Nguyen Ngoc, general director of Viet Thang. Garment companies see Viet Nam s fashion industry as a promising market, he added.
In competition with foreign brand names, Vietnamese brands are hoping to capitalise on the shopping season that begins in earnest ahead of Christmas and New Year, and are forking out plenty of money on advertising.
Collections under brand names Viet Thang, Bulliant and Three Camels at newly opened shops are attracting the interest of an increasing number of Vietnamese and foreign customers.
Limited edition items under Sansciaro and T-UP brand names created by young designers like Hoai Sang, Trong Nguyen and Ngoc Dieu of the Viet Tien company, are proving popular.
"Our products are pricey, most of them starting at over VND500,000 (US$27.10), but customers who can afford it are thrilled that sophisticated designs can now be made by Vietnamese," said Ngoc Dieu, who works with the brand name T-UP.
But many of the collections available at Viet Tien shops also have products costing as little as VND150,000 ($8.13) for both men and women while still providing quality and modern styles, she added.
Dieu s employer, Phan Van Kiet, deputy general director of Viet Tien, said: "We have invested a lot, both money and in terms of human resources, to improve our business.
"We hope to popularise and diversify our products in the local market, instead of subcontracting to foreign partners."
"We believe in our future prospects here, in Viet Nam," he said.
Smaller than Viet Tien and Viet Thang, dozens of HCM City-based garment companies like Thanh Thuy and Phuoc Thinh, have also upgraded their products and worked with dealers to open new outlets.
At Ben Thanh and Tan Dinh, two of HCM City s most famous downtown markets, foreign and local customers are drawn by Vietnamese products that offer high-end styles at reasonable prices.
"Come here. No more foreign items. Vietnamese only, good quality and good prices," said Nguyen Thi Kieu, a shopkeeper in Tan Dinh Market. Her shop offers clothing for children and women made by small factories in nearby districts 5 and Tan Binh.
She stocked Thai, Korean and Chinese goods last year but went local this year because "Customers, particularly the youth, now don t care about where the products come from but only about price and quality.
"My customers like Vietnamese designs because they are trendy and high-quality and their prices are reasonable."
The products she sells cost just VND30,000 - 90,000 ($1.62 -4.87) for each item, and over VND100,000 ($5.42) for an adult item, saving customers a lot of money.
Nguyen Thi Oanh, owner of a fashion shop on Ly Chinh Thang, offers T-shirts and jeans made by private garment factories in rural districts from just VND45,000 - 150,000 ($2.43 - 8.13)per item.
"This year I am also selling famous clothing brands like Phuoc Thinh, Thanh Cong and Phuong Dong they are liked by both urban and rural people," she said.
"My goal is to create styles for Vietnamese because the country s fashion industry should be built on their demands," said designer Vo Viet Chung, owner of two shops in HCM City and Ha Noi under the label VOV.
With his staff of 20 seamstresses and embroiders, Chung offers several hundred outfits for men and women in different styles every three months, most of them elegant and eye-catching, at prices ranging from VND300,000 ($16.26) to over VND1 million ($54.20).
His designs, mostly on Vietnamese satins and silks, are a combination of traditional Vietnamese and modern European styles.
There is severe competition among young designers, "but I have my own niche," said the 29-year-old Chung, who spent two years in Italy and Denmark, honing his designing skills.
"Studying and working abroad is a great opportunity for Vietnamese designers like me," said Chung, who has shown his collections at fashion shows throughout the country and in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Paris.
Chung s younger peers, Nguyen Hang and Dieu Anh, agreed with him, adding, however, that while the fashion scene was attracting more and more young people to meet increasing demand of both foreign and local garment companies, the country still did not have a fashion institute.
"We hope that colleagues and universities will expand their courses of study in design and open fashion design departments," said Hang, who has participated in a training course launched by the Fadin and its French partner, Institut Francais de la Mode.
Hang and Dieu Anh have prospered this season by delivering quality collections through their retail outlets in the Zen Plaza a shopping centre that offers prominent Vietnamese products. Five years ago, they could barely survive on their own, but they makes enough now to open their own shops.
"I can earn more than a hundred million dong a month," said Hang, adding that he not only dreams of building his business in Viet Nam, but also of exporting his designs. VNS
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