The early part of September took me to Vietnam to visit with my supplier, reconnect with my team of sewers and research what to bring you for Spring 2016. This post chronicles the first three days of my trip.
Day 1: Arrival, Rockstar and Underwear
After 26 hours of travel, I landed in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) at 9:30 in the morning. As you exit the airport, you kinda feel like a rockstar, as there are thousands of people waiting. . .there must be 20 people waiting for every arriving passenger!
I grabbed a metered, brand name taxi and headed to my hotel. One must be careful to avoid the “taxi” drivers who are offering to help with your luggage and take you to their car. After about an hour of driving around, you will end up not at your hotel, but at a “better” hotel (which just happens to be owned by the driver’s brother).
After checking into the hotel, I changed into something cool since it was 90 degrees plus and 90% plus humidity. If you have never traveled to Vietnam, here is my first tip: Bring a ton of underwear. I don’t mind wearing the same sweaty dress all day, but I can’t stand to wear the same pair of sweaty underwear!
I had a quick afternoon meeting with my supplier Ms. Lien and Mr. Nghia to discuss a few projects and plan the rest of my trip. My goal was simply to stay awake for the day so I could adjust to the time zone. I think I made it until 8 p.m. that night.
Day 2: You Think This is Easy?
In the morning, Mr. Nghia picked me up in a car to take me to the fabric markets. I know this sounds trivial (to be picked up in a car), but the first few years I traveled to Vietnam, there were few cars due to high tariffs. My mode of transportation was either walking or the back of a motorbike, without a helmet (as no helmet laws were in place at the time). Walking was just as dangerous. Although there are sidewalks, they serve as the parking lot for the motorbikes. So, you have to walk in the streets, with the motorbikes!
Our goal for the day was to find the new cotton prints for Spring. Most of you know that my cotton prints are remnants. This means we basically hunt for fabric that I like. We walk from shop to shop (avoiding the motorbikes) hoping to find something you like. I’m telling you, this is really tough work. It is hot and sticky. You need muscles to move the big fabric rolls. You have to watch your bag so a motorbike doesn’t drive by and grab it. It is frustrating. When you find a print you LOVE there are often not enough meters. It is overwhelming. Sometimes it is difficult to see the tree instead of the forest. Right, then sometimes the power goes out so you can’t see anything anyway.
After a bit of Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) for lunch, we picked up Ms. Lien and drove an hour out of the city to a fabric printer. I am trying to find a printer who would be willing to print fabric for me that doesn’t require a 6,000 meter minimum. Six thousand meters! This equates to 66 football field lengths! You would all have to own at least 25 bags and they would all need to be very large.
We spent the afternoon touring the factory and learning about the printing process. I’ll post about this adventure at a later date.
Day 3: Needle in a Haystack and Bamboo Bikes
In the morning, Mr. Nghia and I continued to look for the perfect cotton print for Spring. It was so frustrating. However by the end of the morning, we had some very good options!
We also had a quick “chat” with one of the shop owners who supplies the polyester lining fabric for our bags such as Cleo and Tess. Isn’t this 84 year old lady gorgeous? Don’t mind the sweat streaming down my legs. . .
Mr. Nghia took me to a delicious restaurant for lunch that specialized in the food of Hoi An (one of my favorite towns in Vietnam). Check out this yummy fish dish.
In the afternoon, I met with the Director of Mekong-Quilts. della Q donates a portion of our profits each year to this fabulous organization. Mekong Quilts trains low-income and rural Vietnamese women in the art of quilting.
During the meeting, I learned that a sister organization, Mekong Creations makes these super cool bamboo bikes! I totally want one!
Check out Part 2 of this post here.