Saigonese spends 30 years ripping jeans

By Diep Phan   March 16, 2021 | 04:00 pm GMT+7
At the age of 57, Truong Tan Vien has spent the past three decades producing ripped jeans in Vietnamese metropolis Saigon.
At 3 p.m. every day, Vien, traveling from Saigon’s Binh Tan District to Ho Xuan Huong Street in District 3, opens his ripped jeans shop.  The shop includes a plastic stool on which he sits and works on pairs of jeans, and some products hung on the wall for local patrols to pass by and choose.

At 3 p.m. each day, Vien, traveling from Saigon’s Binh Tan District to Ho Xuan Huong Street in District 3, opens his ripped jeans "shop". The "shop" comprises a plastic stool on which he habitually sits ripping a pair of jeans, with various items hung along the back wall to entice potential clients.

Vien used to make clothes for children before facing difficulties in his business and deciding to try a new product: old jeans.  I was impressed by ripped jeans of international rock bands, so I copied them by making torn jeans to wear. Later, I tried tearing some of them to sell, and my clients surprisingly liked it, the man recalled, adding currently tears new jeans to sell and also makes rippled jeans from his customers’ orders.

Vien used to produce children's clothes before business difficulties forced him onto a new path.
"I was impressed by the ripped jeans worn by international rock bands, which I copied and wore myself. Later, I tried tearing some up to sell, attracting quite a following," he recalled, adding he also creates custom designs made to order.

His equipment includes a thin paper-knife and a face mask.   Vien, normally working on thick fabrics, said not all jeans can have a better look after being ripped.

His tools include a thin paper-knife and face mask. Vien, used to thick fabrics, said not all jeans respond well to ripping.

I do not work on elastic jeans that have thin fabric as the threads are thin, soft and unendurable. With black jeans, I recommend clients to have horizontal scratching lines instead of having them ripped, Vien maintained. He prefers to work on bright jeans, since they are more stylish after being ripped.

"I don't work on elastic jeans with thin, soft and non-durable threading. With black jeans, I recommend horizontal scratchings instead of having them ripped," Vien maintained, preferring bright jeans that are more "stylish" after being ripped.

Vien creates various types of rippled jeans in many sizes and shapes.  Once, a man ordered Vien to make a completely ripped jacket from his VND20 million jean jacket, Vien, working on expensive clothes before, worried as he had no idea what completely ripped means.  I befriended with him on Facebook, tried tearing some parts, and sent him photos. Not until he gave me his opinions that I dared to work more on the jacket, Vien said.

Once, a customer requested Vien to "completely rip" his VND20 million jean jacket, leaving the latter at a loss as to what was truly required.
"I befriended him on Facebook, tried tearing some parts, and sent him photos. Not until he gave me his opinion did I dare proceed," he mentioned.

With this pair of jeans, he made a big hole and patched it with a different piece of ripped cloth.  I wanted to have a highlight, so patrons can have a dusty and unique pair of jeans. And when they get bored of it, they can bring it here, I will replace the piece of cloth with a new one. So they will have a new pair of jeans, Vien said with a big smile.

"I want patrons to have a "dusty" and unique pair of jeans. When they get bored of it, they could bring it back here. I will replace the piece of old cloth with new material," a smiling Vien maintained.

This pair of jeans took him 20 minutes to tear. The prices depend on the sizes of the ripped parts, from VND10 - 30,000. I see the rippled parts as artworks.

This pair of jeans took him 20 minutes to tear. Prices depend on the size of ripped parts, ranging from VND10,000-30,000 ($0.43-1.29).
"I see the rippled parts as artworks."

He bought these jeans, then designed and created the ripped parts himself. According to Vien, his earning from making ripped jeans peaked from 1995 to 2005.  Vietnam did not have ripped jeans made by big companies then. I used to make this type of jeans for celebrities. Things are different now, but I am satisfied with my life and income. All things and careers have their peaks and will be over, he said.

According to Vien, his earnings from making ripped jeans peaked from 1995 to 2005.
"Vietnam didn't have ripped jeans back then. I used to make this type of jeans for celebrities. Things are different now, but I am satisfied with my life and income. All things and careers have their peaks and end," he said.

Dinh Duan, 43, one of Vien’s loyal customers, passes by and buys ripped jeans hung on the wall. He sold old jeans, but I like their color and ripped parts. I sometimes buy new jeans and bring them here to have them ripped, Duan said.

Dinh Duan, 43, one of Vien’s most loyal customers, buys a pair of ripped jeans.
"He sells old jeans, though I like their color and ripped parts. I sometimes buy new jeans and bring them here to have them ripped," Duan commented.

Duan has a video call with his family, asking them whether they like to have a pair from Vien, who earn some hundreds VND per day.

Duan has a video call with his family, asking them whether they would like a pair of jeans from Vien, who earns several hundred dong per day.

Apart from making ripped jeans, Vien also make bags and backpacks from used jeans, which can earn him up to VND300,000 each. I am not sure whether this is a job or not. Calling it a job is wrong because no one taught me and I teach no one. But not calling it a job is also wrong, because I have earn from it for 30 years.

Vien also produces backpacks from used jeans, which can earn him up to VND300,000 a pop.
"I'm unsure whether this is a job or not. Calling it a job is wrong since no one taught me and I teach no one. But not calling it a job is also wrong, because I've been earning a living from it for 30 years."

 
 
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