The Internet’s Favorite Brands Are From Vietnam
by Dan Q. DaoJan 18, 2024
Since the 90s, “made in Vietnam” has largely meant mass-produced textiles for major apparel brands like J.Crew, H&M, Nike and Calvin Klein. In recent years, however, it increasingly describes a new generation of designers earning acclaim internationally.
Broadly speaking, Vietnamese designers are more prolific in the mainstream than ever before, with Saigon-based atelier Cong Tri dressing the likes of Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Rihanna. And that’s not to mention diasporic Vietnamese designers like Helmut Lang’s Peter Do and Lemaire’s Sarah Linh Tran using their runways and editorials to center elements of Vietnamese language and city life, respectively.
But a Vietnamese cultural influence also extends to a more fast-paced internet fashion culture, as young, often self-taught local designers put their perspective on global trends. Best-known among these is Duy Tran of Fancì Club, whose of-the-moment designs channeled the sheer “nude dresses” of 2022 and the coquettish bows, ruffles and rosettes that defined 2023.
Yet, with more and more brands emerging everyday, it’s never been more exciting to explore the wide world of fashion in Vietnam, where ancient traditions often collide with cutting-edge innovation. From Ho Chi Minh City (also called Saigon) to Hanoi, here are 11 essential Vietnam-based brands to know and shop, since most ship worldwide.
A darling of the internet, Fancì Club was founded by fashion school dropout and self-taught designer Khanh Duy Tran in 2018 when he was just 19 years old. Though it started with secondhand clothes and upcycled designs, the brand has since pivoted to its own original creations—centered largely around sheer, backless, and otherwise provocative organza dresses accented with rosettes, ribbons, spikes, and fur trims.
“Drawing inspiration from the natural body and shape of women, Fancì Club’s design represents a contemporary interpretation of timeless elegance and the ultra-feminine aesthetic found in women’s fashion,” Tran explains to PAPER. “Our designs embrace boldness, extravagance and femininity, which can be seen from the high-cut details to the funky material choices. We want to ignite the confidence and self-love of whoever possesses the designs.”
The Ho Chi Minh City-based brand and its viral creations have caught the eye of numerous global stylists and celebrities. In the last few years, Tran has produced custom designs for Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo, Kourtney Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Addison Rae and the members of BLACKPINK.
According to Tran, the name of the brand has its literal meaning in English, but the word “fancy” is spelled with an ‘ì,’ using the second tone of the Vietnamese language to emphasize the local pronunciation. “We join together as a ‘club’ to promote the notion of living shamelessly for beauty, kindly and in harmony with life,” he adds.
Fusing Vietnamese heritage with contemporary minimalism, Hanoi-based studio Subtle Le Nguyen seeks to produce elegant yet functional designs for the modern woman. Launched in 2015 by co-founders Nhat Viet and Jang Le, the brand turns out both upgraded essentials, as well as relaxed formalwear with conceptual tailoring and thoughtful accents like ruching, pleats and other textured fabrics.
Despite intentionally eschewing promotional campaigns, Subtle Le Nguyen has nonetheless gained a foothold in global fashion and now sells products on SSENSE. Kylie Jenner even donned one of its scrunched tank tops in a pre-Coachella snap.
According to Nhat Viet, the brand is working on new designs increasingly inspired by the plurality of cultures present within Vietnam, particularly the ethnic minorities. He points to the shape of a newly released shoulder bag, which takes inspiration from the communal stilt house of the Bahnar people.
“Vietnam has 54 ethnicities, and we have a mission to reflect its diversity,” he says. “I think when people see Vietnam, they see áo dài, non lá and phở. It's so much more than that. The minorities, they have different attire, culture, festivals, holidays. They’re in their own world, yet we all live together on the same land. To me that is the definition of community.”
A frontrunner in Vietnamese womenswear, Saigon-based AEIE Studios was established in 2018 by entrepreneur Trang Thuy Do, who is also a co-owner of the fashion and lifestyle boutique OBJoff, where the brand is sold in-store. The brand rose to international prominence with the popularity of its iconic 2020 “Waifu” collection, which reinterpreted traditional bridalwear through the lens of the Vietnamese city girl.
The name of the brand — a random word with no set meaning — mirrors the brand’s blank-canvas approach to design. As Do explains, “The core desire for AEIE’s products is that every garment always has its own uniqueness and is archival over time. Because of the brand’s experimental nature, each collection will have different specific inspirations.”
Take, for example, the 2022 collection entitled “Choi Chu,” which took cues from Vietnamese culture, reimagining the traditional costume, or áo dài, alongside other playful dresses emphasizing bright, bold colors and twisted details. The latest collection, entitled “Almost Absolute,” shifted focus to mystery and elegance, featuring more delicate cutouts and darker shades in club-ready dresses, trousers and a bikini set. Beyond apparel, the brand is known for its signature Puffed Waves handbag, as spotted on Bella Hadid.
Founded in 2019 and later entering the ready-to-wear segment in 2021, Duc Studio is the brainchild of designer Duc Minh Nguyen, who graduated as valedictorian in fashion from Saigon’s Hoa Sen University. While the brand is known for a sense of cheekiness — think a t-shirt with a built-in tote bag in case you forgot yours — it’s actually Vietnamese heritage, language and traditional costumes that serve as the guiding muse for Nguyen’s designs.
“The vibrant hues reminiscent of traditional garments like the traditional 'áo bà ba' or the evocative motifs inspired by my mother's attire. These nostalgic imprints manifest within our designs,” Nguyen says. “Moreover, the hustle and bustle of daily life in Vietnam, from a streetside tea vendor to the cacophony of city traffic, acts as an omnipresent source of inspiration.”
To this end, a recent collection in 2023 took cues from the eclectic sights of Vietnamese alleys — throughways frequented by office workers, students, artists and market vendors alike. Meanwhile, Nguyen’s formal design training manifests in the brand’s technical prowess and material innovation — everything from avant-garde formalwear and full-length printed gowns to body-tight tops with tattoo motifs paired with multi-layered denim-on-denim pants. At the end of the day, Nguyen says, his aim is to “keep fashion weird.”
Before Xi Quan Le became one of Vietnam’s most well-known celebrity makeup artists, he studied fashion. Established in 2018, LATUI, which literally translates to “I am me” in Vietnamese, represents Le’s roots in design, as well as his interest in redefining beauty.
What started as a simple ready-to-wear label has since flourished into a boundary-defying atelier known for its interpretation of Y2K styles — think corset tops and sparkling mini skirts — as well as subversive basics, like the low-rise ASSylum*69 Jeans and signature Orgasm Top, constructed by layering pieces of manually torn fabric.
“From the typical casual workwear to what we are now has been a journey of rebirth and reframing social norms as antithetical to our core value,” Le reveals. “At the beginning, the inspiration came from our take on women's personas. Recently, it’s for anyone of any gender who meets our style and brand mentality. Our goal is to create a community where people can express their inner facade in a way they’ve never tried before.”
Huelleyrose was founded in 2021 by Danang-born Hanh Nhi Huynh following her success as a stylist and photographer for other Vietnamese brands. Though it offers a wide selection of casual wear, the youth-centric brand is best known for its rebellious, feminine dresses that emphasize natural curves, like the best-selling Freya Dress made with semi-sheer, flexible mesh fabrics accented with ribbons and metal eyelets. Since its inception, the brand has been spotted on numerous local models including Dahan Phuong Oanh and Thuy Tien, as well as Japanese singer Mina of the K-pop group TWICE.
“While I don't have specific celebrity or artistic references, my mom's style has always been a constant source of inspiration for me,” Huynh explains. “She's very sành điệu (stylish), and she loves styling her outfits. But what truly makes her style is her mindset. At nearly 60, she carries herself with the grace of a woman half her age. She taught me that it's cool to express and let the imagination run.”
Mythology, manga and Alexander McQueen are among some of the aesthetic inspirations behind La Lune, according to its founder and designer Dac Thang Quach, perhaps best known by his online name Vicki Virus. Since its formal debut in 2020, the brand has been seen on K-pop stars like BLACKPINK's Lisa, G-IDLE’s Minnie and the members of AESPA.
Prior to launching the brand, Quach worked for other fashion brands, including AEIE Studios. It was after graduating from Van Lang University, where he now lectures in material processing, that he began working on his label. Now, La Lune’s often fantastical visual hallmarks include bat wings and butterfly wings as seen on its best-selling denim pieces, as well as 3-D printed designs like the biomechanical-style Guillotine Top.
“The moon is Earth's satellite — an entity that does not emit light and reflects light from the sun,” Quach says. “This is a metaphor for the fact that I cannot make miracles alone. All the energies around me are great sources of motivation and inspiration to be able to create a brilliant and vibrant La Lune. The moon also carries the meaning of mystery, fantasy, as well as femininity, which have been our brand characteristics from the early days.”
“Reinventing the minimalist wardrobe” is the motto of Klei Studio, the eponymous project of one of Vietnam’s pioneering stylists and men’s fashion influencers, Kelbin Lei, who serves as creative director. With a focus on clean and sophisticated, yet whimsical and asymmetrical designs, the brand’s signature garments include the classic denim Understatement Dress and the Stapler Tie Shirt — a hero piece from the brand’s “Power Suiting” collection that features a white button-up shirt with a built-in, curved black tie design.
The brand was founded in 2020 in Saigon amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and has since been worn by countless A-listers in Asia, ranging from Taiwanese fashion icon Molly Chiang and Thai actor Mattoom to Vietnamese pop star Toc Tien. As Lei explains, “Our brand draws inspiration from the concept of ‘power dressing,’ featuring innovative restructuring and creative layering. Each collection is inspired by daily observations of life.”
Launched in 2020, CAOSTU is a gender-neutral ready-to-wear label from designer Quy Cao, who graduated as valedictorian in fashion at Van Lang University before interning with local design houses. In 2021, he took home the top prize at the local TikTok FashUP event, and also participated in the Vietnam International Fashion Week. In 2023, the brand opened its physical shop in Saigon. Since its inception, the brand has become popular with local celebrities, including supermodel Minh Tu, singer Chi Pu, and Miss Universe Vietnam winner H’hen Nie.
Inspired by nature and architectural shapes, Cao’s designs emphasize curved lines and strategic geometric arrangements. A 2023 collection touted an oversized quilted jacket and curved waistcoat-style shirt, while the new 2024 collection spotlights a centerpiece riff on the traditional Vietnamese áo dài.
“CAOSTU places emphasis on high quality ready-to-wear and a meticulous attention to detail, giving a modern twist to designs through innovative processing,” Quy Cao explains. “CAOSTU's signature touch is reflected in subtle elements like twists, layers, pleats, and circular metal eyelets, evident throughout the brand's diverse offerings.”
Sparkly tops, corsets, and coquettish lace skirts are among the signature looks from Mamavirus, established in 2015 by Hoang Thanh Vy Ngo, a former model and vintage reseller who named the label after her gaming username. Popular in both Vietnam and Thailand, the brand offers tailored looks as well as a line of essentials — all crafted using gentle fabrics with comfort in mind. The brand ships worldwide, but also has a shop in Saigon that sells both its clothes and hand-picked vintage homeware. (The shop recently drew attention on social media after a surprise visit by Lisa of BLACKPINK.)
“When I started, the liberated and sensual style wasn’t common in Vietnam, so shopping for such items was limited, and I would often order from the US or UK,” Ngo explains. “It dawned on me: Why not create the kind of products I wanted to wear instead of always buying them? As I grew older, I became more certain about the ideal image of a woman I wanted to embody. This profound admiration serves as inspiration for us to craft products that accentuate the female form, predominantly using lace fabrics.”
The newest brand on this list, Bupbes launched in 2022, taking its name from the Vietnamese word for “doll.” Naturally, the brand focuses on playful, easy-to-wear mini dresses with ruffles and rosettes. While the designer of the brand is so-far unnamed, its pieces have already gone international, with designs like the popular Orchia Set seen on the likes of BLACKPINK’s Rosé and the members of G-IDLE.
“We are deeply inspired by pop culture, dolls and the Y2K aesthetic,” said a spokesperson for the brand. “In every one of our collections, we like to bring about femininity, cuteness and sexiness in different sets of clothes as we believe women nowadays have many sides to show to the world.”