Ancient craft makes wearable art
Vietnamese artistry graces modern style at a unique boutique
IF ALL goes well for Ang Namsilk, a new boutique at Aloha Tower Marketplace, owners Angie and Robert Thanh Wu may find themselves with the "Shanghai Tang of Vietnam."
Ang Namsilk is on the first floor of Aloha Tower Marketplace, in Suite 1113, next to Starbucks en route to Gordon Biersch. Call 536-7455.
Shanghai Tang is known for its determination to preserve elements of Chinese traditional dress, while lifting the designs from the realm of national costume to luxury items suited for a global 21st-century clientele.
The husband-and-wife team aim to do the same for the artisans of Vietnam, whose work graces the handbags, silk dresses and scarves that fill Ang Namsilk, a name that combines the first letters of Angie's name and the last letters of Vietnam, which together sound like an old reference to Vietnam, Annam.
Robert's business as a food importer involves frequent travel to Vietnam, where he noticed that a growing tourism market has led to a demand, not for souvenir trinkets, but for quality goods made in Vietnam.
With a fashion design background, Angie has worked at several retail operations, and Robert encouraged her to take a look at Vietnam and perhaps open a business of her own.
"They have so many beautiful things that I wanted to bring here to show people, to share the culture of Vietnam," said Angie, who points out delicate petit-point coin purses ($119) and handbags ($99 to $259) made of combinations of silk, linen, canvas and suede, still handmade and hand-embroidered. Even the linen is handwoven, a level of craftsmanship unthinkable in the West except at a much higher price.
Open two weeks, the store has already won over Japanese clientele.
COURTESY OF ANG NAMSILK
Here, a purse designed to go with jeans. CLICK FOR LARGE
"They recognize the designs and like that it's handmade. They know that something like this in Japan would cost twice as much," said Robert.
That is to be expected when craftsmanship meets luxury styling. Designs are exclusive to Ang Namsilk, reflecting the Wus' input and knowledge of Western consumer tastes.
"You're not going to find anything like this in Vietnam, not even in the city," said Robert.
Embroidery work also reflects Hawaii's flora, with an emphasis on plumeria and hibiscus, rather than the profusion of orchids that might typically grace Vietnamese wares.
COURTESY OF ANG NAMSILK
Another bag designed to go with jeans. CLICK FOR LARGE
In addition to handbags, embroidered silk scarves and footwear, there are silk and silk-linen dresses and separates for women.
Crinkle-silk camisoles ($99) and skirts ($159) are made for travel.
"You just throw it in the wash, roll it up in a ball and go," said Angie, who already has plans for more clothing styles, as well as more compact evening bags.
"The more I travel, the more I see so many things I want to bring over."