When billionaire singer Rihanna posed for an ad campaign by luxury shoemaker Manolo Blahnik, she also made a star out of the little-known Vietnamese designer who made the oversized white shirt she posed in.
For more than two decades, Nguyen Cong Tri has been crafting chic structured eveningwear made of Vietnamese-spun silk, organza or taffeta, but despite some success at home, his designs had gained less traction elsewhere.
But when Rihanna showcased his Em Hoa range, inspired by the flower sellers of Vietnam, one famous name after another — Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, and Rita Ora among them — began picking out his designs to wear to high profile events.
“I am so proud. Designs by a Vietnamese designer, all Vietnamese production, being chosen and worn by Hollywood stars,” he told AFP from his glamourous “Cong Tri” boutique in Ho Chi Minh City.
Some of his collections were dreamt up during flights over the rice fields of his homeland, another was influenced by the all-women militias of the American war in Vietnam.
With three stores in the country’s business capital, a judging role on the local version of reality TV show Project Runway, and growing international interest — he is a firm believer Vietnam has more to offer fashion beyond its role of factory workhorse.
Tri now has a staff of more than 150 people and is hopeful his success can guide a new generation of talent.
He said: “It won’t be too far in the future that Vietnam can stake its claim on the world fashion map.”
|With three stores in the country’s business capital, a judging role on the local version of reality show Project Runway, and growing international interest – Cong Tri is a firm believer Vietnam has more to offer fashion beyond factory workhorse. Photo: AFP|
Vietnam’s strong women
One of eight siblings, Tri was born in the central coastal city of Da Nang in 1978 — just three years after the war with the US ended.
He studied industrial arts and initially took a job sketching out CD covers for Vietnamese musicians.
But a fascination with the “resilience and strength” of Vietnam’s women soldiers, who he had heard stories about at school, propelled his slide into fashion and led to his first collection — “Green Leaves”, made using a patchwork cloth technique that took inspiration from the winter uniform and hard green hats of the fighters.
“When they were at home, they worked in the rice fields, taking care of their families,” he said of the soldiers. “When on the battlefields, they became the militias: they were such strong women.”
“In all of my collections… the characteristics that make a strong Vietnamese woman are always conveyed or hidden in my design, even in the material,” added Tri, dressed head to toe in white plus a pair of thick-rimmed black glasses.
|Designer Nguyen Cong Tri has been crafting chic structured eveningwear made of Vietnamese-spun silk, organza or taffeta for two decades and his pieces have been worn by stars including Rihanna and Beyonce. Photo: AFP|
At Tokyo Fashion Week in 2016, Tri showed off a collection made from Lanh My A silk, a highly durable material made in just one village in the Mekong Delta that requires huge skill and patience to produce.
The fabric needs to be dyed up to 100 times using the ebony-coloured mac nua fruit to achieve its leather-like appearance, and it took Tri two years to get together enough material.
Those designs were influenced by the Ao Ba Ba — a traditional outfit worn by rice farmers — and his determination to bring his homeland into his clothes has won him fans far beyond Vietnam.
His flower girl collection was spotted by Rihanna’s stylist at Tokyo Fashion Week — who promptly ordered three designs — and two years later, he became the first designer based in Vietnam with a show at New York Fashion Week.
|While the nation’s textile factories have hit the headlines this year over struggles to fulfill orders for global clothing giants such as Nike and Gap amid a brutal COVID-19 wave, young designers are ready to reclaim the Made in Vietnam label. Photo: Courtesy of Cong Tri/AFP|
From factory to fashion week
However, he spent many years “trying and wishing” to get the attention of global stars in an industry where, according to a recent report by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, half of employees of colour believe a fashion career is not equally accessible to all.
While the nation’s textile factories have hit the headlines this year over struggles to fulfill orders for global clothing giants such as Nike and Gap amid a brutal COVID-19 wave, a clutch of young talented designers alongside Tri are ready to reclaim the Made in Vietnam label.
Tran Hung, also based in Ho Chi Minh City, has shown off his designs at London Fashion Week, while rising star Tran Phuong My made her New York Fashion Week debut in 2019.
“Making our names in the world fashion industry is the result of a long process of hard work,” said Tri, who previously joked that the secret to finding success abroad is to put in 18 hours a day at the office.
Some say the pandemic has given the industry a chance to shift, with virtual catwalks allowing designers from all corners of the world to shine, but Tri believes Asian designers need to keep fighting to make it to the top.
He explains: “We have to always think of some way, some path to go down step by step. It’s not just about waiting for society to take a chance on us.”
|Some say the pandemic has given the industry a chance to shift, with virtual catwalks allowing designers from all corners of the world to shine, but Cong Tri believes Asian designers need to keep fighting to make it to the top. Photo: AFP|
Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay-Cat Ba Archipelago recognized as world heritage
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago to the World Heritage List on Saturday night (Vietnam time).
UNESCO announced the new inscription of the Vietnamese site to the list at the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at 9:39 pm (Vietnam time) on the same day.
Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago is Vietnam’s first inter-provincial UNESCO-listed world heritage site.
Cat Ba Archipelago in Hai Phong, a major port city in northern Vietnam, is the largest limestone archipelago of the country. It includes over 360 islands, including Cat Ba Island to the south of Ha Long Bay.
The archipelago had earlier been recognized by UNESCO as a world biosphere reserve, the government news site baochinhphu.vn reported.
Ha Long Bay in neighboring Quang Ninh Province was named by UNESCO as a world heritage site twice in 1994 and 2000.
|Lan Ha Bay in Cat Ba Archipelago in Hai Phong City, northern Vietnam. Photo: Ngo Tran Hai An / Tuoi Tre|
The Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago cluster boasts a rich diversity of island and ocean ecosystems, reported Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.
The newly-recognized world heritage site is home to various rare animals and plants, and houses the country’s largest maritime forest with an area of more than 17,000 hectares.
In September 2016, the prime minister allowed the Hai Phong City administration to work with authorities in Quang Ninh Province to plan the nomination of Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago as a world heritage site.
Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago was added to the World Heritage List due to the beauty of its natural landscapes, including charming vegetation-covered limestone islands, breathtaking limestone islets, and impressive karst formations.
|Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago is Vietnam’s first inter-provincial UNESCO-listed world heritage site. Photo: Tien Thang / Tuoi Tre|
Before the new addition, Vietnam was home to eight UNESCO-recognized world heritage sites.
Among them are Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province, Ha Long Bay, the Hue Imperial Citadel City in Thua Thien Hue Province, Hoi An Ancient Town and the My Son Sanctuary in Quang Nam Province, Thang Long Imperial Citadel in Hanoi, the Citadel of the Ho Dynasty in Thanh Hoa Province, and the Trang An Landscape Complex in Ninh Binh Province.
The 45th session reviewing the sites nominated for the World Heritage List was attended by Associate Professor Dr. Le Thi Thu Hien, head of the Department of Cultural Heritage under the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, and Ambassador Le Thi Hong Van, head of the Permanent Mission of Vietnam to UNESCO.
In Vietnam, woman helps disabled husband fulfill wish of organ donation
The wife of a disabled man in Hanoi who was declared dead from a brain hemorrhage donated his organs to save the lives of others, according to his wishes.
D.T.B., 43, passed away but his heart, liver, and two kidneys still survive in the bodies of others, Hanoi-based Viet Duc University Hospital said on Wednesday.
N.T.H., B.’s wife, said she and B. got married in 2008 and have raised their son and daughter together despite obstacles and difficulties.
B. worked as a cargo transporter and H. as a rice farmer, scrap trader, and domestic helper to make ends meet.
Her family lived in a nine-square-meter house before recently moving to a larger home.
H. has been undergoing thyroid disease treatment at an oncology hospital over the past eight years. However, the disease developed into thyroid cancer last year.
While receiving treatment at the hospital, she was informed that her husband had collapsed while resting after work.
B. was rushed to the General Hospital of Agriculture where doctors found that he had suffered brain hemorrhage and his heart had stopped beating.
H. hurriedly returned home to see her husband for the last time.
Suppressing the pain of losing her husband, H. requested that his organs be donated, according to her deceased husband’s wishes.
According to H., B.’s dream of donating his organs was ignited after watching a report on organ donation in 2009 and deciding he wanted his organs to be used to help other continue their lives.
Despite her family’s protest, H. had B.’s body transported to Viet Duc University Hospital where his organs were donated.
“Whenever someone told me that he would hurt, I smiled and replied that was his wish. He left but still did good things for life,” H. shared.
Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to host first trail race in November
An Giang Province in southern Vietnam is set to host a trail running competition on November 22 this year at the Cam Mountain tourist area, located in the province’s Tinh Bien Town.
The provincial Center for Investment and Trade Promotion and the administration of Tinh Bien jointly held a press conference on Thursday to announce the Cam Mountain Trail 2023, the first trail race in the Mekong Delta region.
The tournament is co-organized by the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel, the Victoria Nui Sam Hotel, Vietrace365 JSC, and the management board of the Cam Mountain tourist area.
The Cam Mountain Trail is expected to promote physical activity habits and the trailing running trend in the area as well as across the country.
Le Trung Hieu, director of the provincial Center for Investment and Trade Promotion, said the event will enable An Giang to promote its tourism, cultural customs, and local specialties, aside from spreading a positive message to keep a healthy lifestyle.
Running enthusiasts from beginners to athletes are welcomed to take part in the sports event, which offers runners 5km, 10km, 21km và 42km races through stunning landscapes including lush forests, mountain passes, and tourist attractions.
|Some trails of the upcoming Cam Mountain Trail 2023. Photo: Courtesy of organizer|
The participants are required to finish their races starting from delta areas to the top of Cam Mountain within 7-8 hours.
The first finishers of the mentioned-above distances will be awarded medals and the respective sums of VND3 million (US$124), VND4 million ($165), VND5 million ($206), and VND7 million ($290).
Up to now, around 1,000 runners have registered to join the trail race, according to the organizer.
Since the Cam Mountain Trail 2023 is the first of its kind in the delta, the organizer limits the number of runners in the competition at some 1,300 only.
The figure will be revised up in the next few years if local lodging facilities are able to offer their services to more runners.
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