Vietnamese high school student in US creates handmade bag brand

By Phong Van   February 20, 2023 | 05:00 pm PT
L'Arlésienne was born with the purpose of making luxury bags for young people to express themselves through artistic fashion at affordable prices.

The girl from a dream

The launch of a handmade fashion bag collection L'Arlésienne - The Girl from Arles - took place recently at the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi.

The idea, design, production, and sales of these bags were all organized by a Vietnamese high school student studying in the United States with the purpose of applying visual arts like painting to fashion.

That's Khang Dinh, also known as Lucas, a 17-year-old Vietnamese young man who is the founder, managing director, and creative director of L'Arlésienne. Born in Hanoi to a construction engineer and a lawyer, Lucas has had a passion for painting and fashion design since he was little.

Founder LArlésienne Dinh Phuc Khang introduces his lastest bag collection. Photo by....

Founder L'Arlésienne Dinh Phuc Khang introduces his lastest bag collection. Photo by L'Arlésienne

In 9th grade, when he traveled to the United States for high school, his passion for design grew even stronger. The new school environment helped Lucas approach many opportunities to express himself through art.

At the L'Arlésiennes launch event, he said that while cherishing a dream and finally realizing it he chose to name his brand: L'Arlésienne, or The Girl from Arles. L'Arlésienne means something that's coming, but never comes: "Maybe it's like a dream that everyone chases."

"Art is the same for me, it is a burning fire that grows bigger and bigger over time," said Lucas. "I want my ideas and art to be communicated to everyone, not just a small audience, so I chose the path of bringing art into everyday life, applying visual arts to creating fashion."

After a long incubation process of several years, L'Arlésienne - The girl from Arles - was officially open.

Lucas said fashion, different from other arts, is utilitarian. It is also because of this motto that L'Arlésienne was born with the purpose of making Vietnamese couture bags that serve as a medium for self-expression.

"With the high artistry of these bags, I hope L'Arlésienne will help the owner of each bag appreciate art, as well as express their own personality," he said. "In other words, through the L'Arlésienne bag that you wear, you can define yourself in the most authentic way."

The Thanatology collection includes four bag models. Photo by....

The Thanatology collection includes four bag models. Photo by L'Arlésienne

Finding manufacturers

Lucas said, in the process of designing his bags he learned the experience of genuine leather production from one of the leading leather artisans in Vietnam, Uncle Luan, the great-grandchild of artisan Ninh Ky, who was granted the Certificate of Artisanship by the Indochinese government in 1919.

However, many leather manufacturers refused Lucas' order due to his quality control demands and the high complexity of his designs.

"The real difficulty came when nearly a dozen manufacturers refused my order on the grounds that they did not produce orders with high difficulty and high complexity," he said. "Most L'Arlésienne's bags have motifs that need to be UV-printed."

Lucas explained that from genuine leather, such as cowhide or whole crocodile skin, dyed in individual colors, to accessories, including metal buckles, stainless steel corner seals, and CNC-cut wooden boxes, are all too overwhelming for most Vietnamese manufacturers.

He said that another reason for his failure to find manufacturers was that the quantity of his orders quantity was too small.

Despite the many difficulties, Lucas did not want to give up.

After months of negotiation, a manufacturer finally agreed to produce his design. The owner of that leather workshop was convinced by Lucas creative vision.

"I was convinced by Lucas about his passion for fashion and determination," said Ha, the owners of a handmade leather workshop. "When working with him, we had to innovate new production technology and methodology in order to meet his requirements. As a person who likes challenges and novelties, I accepted his order."

The first batch of L'Arlésienne products was completed in the summer of 2022.

"In the thanatology collection, I designed the Mattaché and Attosac bags with the intention of expressing each owner's personality and style," said Lucas. "The other two bag models, Wonderland Tote and Pochette, are used to store everyday items when going to work, such as laptops, documents, and pens."

The material to make these four silhouettes is 100% full cowhide or whole crocodile skin. After being processed, it will be tanned and dyed with L'Arlésienne's unique hues.

Lucas' bags come in four colors: greenerie, dark periwinkle, hellfire, and black. L'Arlésienne has two main brand colors, hellfire, a bright fiery red with purple undertones, and dark eriwinkle, based on the dark purple of periwinkles. Hellfire symbolizes intense passion, while the dark periwinkle represents coldness and nobility.

Models wear LArlésiennes leather bags. Photo by....

Models wear L'Arlésienne's leather bags. Photo by L'Arlésienne

"I have always wanted to bring the art of applied painting into fashion, so L'Arlésienne's leather bags are printed with hand-painted textures such as the Wonderland Tote, Attosac, and Pochette," he said. "I have used quite a lot of eye and lip textures before when painting cubist portraits. My style of painting is to abstract everyday observations emotionally."

At the brand launch event, Duy Nguyen, stylist and catwalk director, who has collaborated with many Vietnamese fashion brands, said: "I was surprised at Lucas's understanding of fashion. He demonstrates a deep understanding of more than 30 international fashion brands. After Lucas presented his idea, I agreed to help him."

KOLs attend the brand launch event. Photo by

KOLs attend the brand launch event. Photo by L'Arlésienne

The angel investor who agreed to contribute capital to Lucas from the first round added: "The reason I invested in this deal is because of the project was convincing. In addition, I want to say to young people to dream and be determined to pursue their dreams. Be confident to go out into the world to assert yourself. Success only comes when you have confidence to commit to something."

go to top