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Fashion industry struggles to stay afloat amid Covid

By Long Nguyen   May 23, 2021 | 04:38 am PT
To survive the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vietnamese fashion industry is resorting to online sales and creating affordable clothes.

In April fashion aficionados were thrilled to see Rosé, a member of the famous South Korean band Blackpink, wear a Cong Tri creation in her music video.

The colorful premium organza high-low skirt decorated with dyed ostrich feathers, first showcased by the Vietnamese designer at the 2019 New York Fashion Week, made Vietnamese fashion lovers proud.

"I never thought an outfit by a Vietnamese designer would be used by international stars; this is great," one person commented online.

A few weeks later, Tri released his latest collection, inspired by traditional Vietnamese craftsmen, and was introduced by renowned fashion magazine Vogue.

He is among many Vietnamese designers who have been trying hard to stay afloat amid the Covid-19 ordeal, which has severely affected their production and sales.

Models wear Cong Tris My Colors collection, released in December 2020. Photo by Team Kieng Can.

Models wear Cong Tri's "My Colors" collection, released in December 2020. Photo by Team Kieng Can.

Last year designers like Le Thanh Hoa, Do Long and Adrian Anh Tuan had to postpone shows.

Thuan Viet, Sy Hoang and Tom Trandt saw a significant decrease in their number of clients.

"The pandemic closed my shop for 22 days, while factories were shut, affecting production," Trandt, owner of the Moi Dien brand, said.

With the cancelation of international fashion events, many Vietnamese designers have also found it hard to introduce their works to fashion aficionados worldwide, which too has hit their sales.

But some have tried to turn lemon into lemonade, finding ways to do business despite the pandemic.

Some of them have resorted to the Internet to showcase new collections.

Earlier this year Tran Hung introduced his new collection "La Muse" on his YouTube channel and TikTok account, attracting thousands of viewers.

Thuy Nguyen, famous for using traditional Vietnamese features in her clothes, will work with some e-commerce sites to introduce her works.

Last year Lam Gia Khang closed all his stores to keep his employees safe from Covid, and shifted his focus online and to social networks where clients can consult him.

Do Long and Le Thanh Hoa have also released new mini collections on their websites and speak directly with prospective customers to help them choose the best outfits.

The Vietnam International Fashion Week last December was ready to live stream with no audience present.

Actress Diem My walks the red carpet at the Vietnam International Fashion Week with a clear mask, December 2020. Photo by Hai Nguyen.

Actress Diem My walks the red carpet at the Vietnam International Fashion Week with a clear mask, December 2020. Photo by Hai Nguyen.


With Covid causing people to tighten their belts, designers have been creating affordable outfits.

Si Hoang, famous for luxurious ao dai, realizing people would tend not to spend during the pandemic, has created a collection of ao dai that is comfortable and cheap.

Leading designer Do Manh Cuong has opted to introduce new creations at affordable prices, VND4-5 million (US$172- 215), and eyes middle-class clients.

Some fashion houses gained public exposure by organizing fashion shows at famous tourist spots during lulls in the pandemic.

In March ‘Fashion Voyage 3 - Chasing The Sun’ on Phu Quoc Island featured renowned designers like Adrian Anh Tuan, Le Thanh Hoa and Vo Cong Khanh, and a slew of young faces.

In April more than 600 ao dai, inspired by the cultures of many countries, were showcased at a show at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi.

The pandemic itself has inspired some designers to create collections of masks and protective gear.

Last year Chung Thanh Phong showed off a collection inspired by protective gear with prices ranging from VND780,000 for shirts, VND1.8 million for jumpsuits and VND55,000-150,000 for masks and hand sanitizers.

Lien Huong has combined bespoke masks with traditional ao dai to spread a positive message amid the pandemic.

But Vietnamese fashion designers know it will be a very long time before their industry returns to normal.

"People must have financial stability before prioritizing looks and beauty," Hoang Minh Ha said.

The designer added that local brands must have a vision and make preparations for the post-pandemic era.

The Vietnam International Fashion Week, planned to be held from May 27 to 30, now faces uncertainty due to the new Covid wave that began last month.

Trang Le, chairwoman of the event, said she has not made a final decision on its postponement, and called on local designers to change their perception "to bring positive changes to the Vietnam fashion industry."

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