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Saigon witnesses rising demand for luxury goods ‘spas’

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Although it might sound exciting to work with designer goods, the craftsmen who restore and repair luxury items face a difficult balance.

Designer bags, shoes, and backpacks are customers’ means of showing their social status in Vietnam.

However, how can these assets which might cost hundreds of millions, even billions of Vietnamese dong be repaired as they get older?

“I have a deep passion for handbags, even mangled ones,” said Pham Ngoc Hieu, founder of Auth Spa in Ho Chi Minh City’s Phu Nhuan District, about the motivation behind his luxurious bag ‘spa.’

The handbag savior

Hieu started trading high-end bags ten years ago after quitting his previous desk job.

He realized that no matter how well-made they were, sooner or later, handbags would be damaged.

Meanwhile, it was hard to find a person able to repair them.

Handbag touching up, at the time, was still a strange service in Vietnam.

Hieu went abroad to learn techniques of handbag restoration before opening his own spa, becoming the pioneer in the country.

He and his partners offer cleaning and repair services on premium handbags, shoes, and accessories made by world-renowned luxury goods manufacturers including Hermes, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton or Burberry, which are stained, scratched or deformed. 

Nguyen Thi Thanh Truc, Hieu’s wife, is a professional in restoring products’ original colors and changing leather hues.

“Bags which are severely stained or discolored need restoring with electromagnetic shielding paint and setting spray,” said Truc.

“For changing an original color into another, it depends on which shade it is.

“The success rate for basic colors is about 90 percent while for limited ones it’s only 80 percent.”

Their first account was to restore a handbag valued at VND70 million (US$3,000).

“I was scared at first because the bag was too expensive,” she recalled.

“Not clear about its leather’s characteristics, I tinted it wrongly.

“It took me a week to realize that for absorbing leathers, I needed to use a lighter shade of colors.”

Nguyen Thi Thanh Truc painstakingly repairs a luxurious Hermes bag. – Photo: Le Phan/Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Thi Thanh Truc painstakingly repairs a luxurious Hermes bag. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre

Upper-class services

Most valuable products repaired by Auth Spa are from Hermes, ranging from thousands to dozens of thousands of U.S. dollars for each item.

“We have processed dozens of Hermes handbags under VND500 million [$21,600],” said Truc.

“Their owners take good care of them as they are too expensive.

“Most of the orders are to restore straps and decolored parts, which required both meticulousness and skills.

“Otherwise, we would have to pay considerable compensation.”

According to her, fixers learn by doing. Through time, she has gained a lot of experience and created her own techniques of repairing handbags.

“Once we love the products and treat them as our own, we will be confident and give the best shot to take care of them,” Truc shared her philosophy.

In 2015, Hieu and Truc opened their first bricks-and-mortar workshop and got flooded with orders from Ho Chi Minh City and other localities.

Upper-class customers are the targets of ICUS – a luxury goods spa by Tran Huy Hoang, 29, in Ho Chi Minh City.

“A person who pays VND20 million [$867] for an item can definitely afford the repairing fee of VND3-4 million [$130-173]. It makes no sense to restore a bag that costs some VND500,000 [$21] at the same expenses,” Hoang said, adding the cost would be determined based on a bag’s damage levels and customer orders.

A bag valued at VND40 million ($1,700), for example, will be restored to be like-new at VND7 million ($303). The harder it is to be fixed, the higher the cost will pile up.

“I think for valuable, premium goods, the restoring expense of some million dong is not too high,” he added.

“We used to ‘revive’ a heavily damaged Gucci bag valued at VND140 million [$6,000] at several million dong. It might have been resold at VND50 million [$2,160] at least,” he added.

Some 10 percent of his frequent customers are celebrities.

“They are picky and strict when it comes to leather finishes and deadlines,” he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. 

“However, as authorized accessories need importing from abroad, late appointment is unavoidable.”

A staff of ICUS tints a Coach bag to fix discolored parts. – Photo: Le Phan/Tuoi Tre

A staff of ICUS tints a Coach bag to fix discolored parts. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre

A risky job

There are many invisible risks posed to people working in the industry, according to Hoang, since they have to deal with high-value products on a daily basis.

He recalled the compensation of VND20 million for a VND26 million ($1,126) Burberry bag for accidentally staining it when cleaning.

“The bag was constructed by different materials so staining and decoloring some parts were inevitable. The chance of making mistakes is about two to three of every 3,000 orders,” said Hoang.

Another risk is to deliver wrong items. He said a couple days ago, his staff carelessly put a VND30 million ($1,300) Chanel wallet into a wrong package for delivery.

“Luckily, my customer called saying she received a wallet that was not hers and asked us to take it back,” he said.

The most dangerous situation, according to Hoang, is to lose customers’ goods because it is not only about compensation but also trust issues. He has a budget to handle incidents.

“God blesses us, we barely need to use it,” he said.

To prevent any fault, craftsmen have to be able to shoulder pressure and pay attention to details. The reward is high earnings.

“They are all painstakingly selected and trained to both clean and repair handbags,” said Hoang.

“Staff in charge of tinting and restoring have to be arts and architecture students.

“We have our own team of delivery workers.

“Customers can review final products before deciding to receive or send them back to our workshop for further fixes.”

Although it has just been introduced for six months, ICUS has developed its list of frequent customers.

“I will soon launch laundry services for handbags, shoes, and backpacks. The market still has room to grow,” he shared his vision.

Besides two branches in Thu Duc City’s Thao Dien Ward and Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10, Hoang said he planned to open two other shops in District 3 and Phu Nhuan District.

Both Auth Spa and ICUS help their customers to distinguish real luxury goods from fake ones using their experience. The demand has risen since a lot of people are able to afford premium products but they cannot tell the difference between authentic products and counterfeits.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/features/20210414/saigon-witnesses-rising-demand-for-luxury-goods-spas/60361.html

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General Giáp’s legendary words echo as health workers battle COVID-19 outbreak

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Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

The latest COVID-19 outbreak has put Hà Nội’s National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in lockdown for 14 days from May 5. 

Since the first COVID-19 community case in this latest outbreak was found in Hà Nam Province on April 29, three days prior to a four-day national holiday, as of the time of writing on Thursday morning, the number of community cases hit 64 in just eight days.

New variants of the coronavirus from India and the UK have also been detected in Việt Nam. 

The actions of the country in recent days are reminiscent of the world-famous hand-written letters by General Võ Nguyên Giáp when he called on the advancing troops to race faster to Sài Gòn in 1975 and reunite Việt Nam.

Thần tốc, thần tốc hơn nữa,” which literally translates as “flashing speed and faster,” has encouraged today’s health officials and ordinary citizens alike to quickly track down the source and new COVID-19 cases in Hà Nam, Yên Bái, Đà Nẵng, Vĩnh Phúc, HCM City and Hà Nội. 

The country has been switched back on to alert mode to fight the coronavirus. 

A quick list of communities that have reported positive cases have been developed by Hà Nội’s Medical University’s Practice Hospital for you to check. 

After the four-day national holiday over the last weekend, health officials warned more coronavirus cases will spring up in the fortnight following the massive amount of people returning to work from beaches in Nha Trang, Vũng Tàu and Phú Quốc.

The haunting image of the news broadcast on national TV showed two identical pictures: one of people bathing in the Ganges River in India and the other of people enjoying the beaches in Việt Nam. Needless to say, the images were supposed to warn the public in Việt Nam to learn a lesson from the tragedy unfolding in India. 

Over the past week, prior to the holiday, Việt Nam’s Ambassador to India Phạm Sanh Châu wrote a heartfelt letter, regarding a young employee of the embassy in New Delhi, who had COVID-19 and was in a critical condition.

The eloquent letter not only told readers what was going on in India but also how the embassy has been coping with the situation and send signals to warn our fellow countrymen. 

As another wave of positive cases will be tracked down, there is a new list of banned activities to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, with fines ranging from VNĐ3 million (US$135) to VNĐ40 million ($1,800) and jail sentences ranging from seven years to life in prison. 

The Hà Nội People’s Committee reported it collected VNĐ300 million ($13,000) of fines over the holiday weekend from fines on people in public spaces without a facemask. 

The health chief officer in Lý Nhân District, Hà Nam Province has been suspended for lack of proper surveillance on a local resident during home quarantine. Provincial health officials in Yên Bái Province have been publicly warned for letting a COVID-19 patient get into close contact with a hotel employee and infecting them. Health Minister Nguyễn Thanh Long has also warned of positive cases within quarantine camps. 

The centralised COVID-19 quarantine period has even been extended to 21 days, a dramatic change from the previous two-week duration. This means possible positive cases will be less likely to leak into the community, but increases the risk those in quarantine may catch the virus, the health minister warned.

In Đà Nẵng, local community COVID-19 mobile teams, born out of the last outbreak in July 2020, have been switched onto active mode. Local teams will announce virus prevention measures on public loudspeakers in local green markets and visit people under home quarantine to check their temperature and health conditions and provide them with food. 

A3 plastic posters have been hung outside the residences of those under home quarantine to ward off unnecessary visits from neighbours and relatives, who have a heartwarming tradition of checking up on those who are sick.

An outsider may call this public shaming of those with the virus, but from a health point of view, this means people in quarantine don’t have to rudely tell well-wishers to go away, the poster does it for them. 

Under Vietnamese law, anyone who spreads a dangerous contagious disease to other people can be fined from VNĐ50 million ($2,270) to VNĐ200 million ($9,000) or be jailed for one to five years. 

Final exams at schools across the country have been scheduled, but students have been ordered to stay at home and study online. It remains to be seen if they will have to take the final exams online as well. 

A new fight with the coronavirus has begun at the country’s top centre for treating this disease, and the country’s newly-elected Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính faces a daunting task of sustaining the country’s safety and growth, which was done well by his predecessor, when great teamwork from the last cabinet kept Việt Nam and its citizens safe and healthy, slowly escaping the pandemic that has wrecked the world with immense human losses. VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/general-giaps-legendary-words-echo-as-health-workers-battle-covid-19-outbreak_324196.html

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Spreading the word about the culture of wellness

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Henri Hubert, ambassador for Global Wellness Day Vietnam

An ambassador for Global Wellness Day Vietnam since 2018, Henri Hubert, director of Le Nom Group, a visual communication agency, believes that good health and a good spirit can help convey the true beauty of life. 

Hubert speaks to Việt Nam News reporter Bồ Xuân Hiệp about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, spread love to the community, and work together for a healthy living environment amid the Covid-19 pandemic on the occasion of Global Wellness Day Vietnam on June 12.

Inner Sanctum: Could you tell us about the Global Wellness Day event? 

Global Wellness Day, a non-profit day event and a social project dedicated to living well, is organised on the second Saturday of June every year internationally. 

First held in 2012 in Turkey, the event has become popular worldwide. With the slogan “One day can change your whole life”, the event aims to help people start living well.

I think modern life is all about the hustle and bustle, making people rush to eat, hurry to work, meet deadlines and so on.

The pressure from work, family and life has caused people to suffer, for example, from depression, which affects millions of people worldwide.

People sometimes don’t remember the last time they breathed fresh air, ate a nutritious meal, or enjoyed a peaceful moment with their loved ones. 

When mentally tired and depressed, people tend to turn cold to everyone around them. Ask yourself, “How long has it been since you actively helped others?”

Do you realise how quickly the products you purchase are delivered to you? The convenience is accompanied by disposable plastic containers being discharged constantly into the environment, causing serious pollution, damaging humans’ health, and resulting in severe diseases. 

The cost of waste processing and medical treatment has become a serious social burden.

Recognising these problems, our mission at Global Wellness Day is to educate, support and empower people and the community so as to improve and maintain their overall health and well-being. 

By encouraging such healthy lifestyle choices, we want to promote a culture of wellness all across the Vietnamese community.

Our goal focuses on encouraging everyone to participate in the wellness programmes we are working hard on and have a long-term commitment not only to these events but also to a healthier lifestyle. 

More than 160 countries will be celebrating the Global Wellness Day with a range of activities on June 12.  

Inner Sanctum: How can we maintain health amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected us both mentally and physically because of travel restrictions and lockdown measures? 

It is absolutely natural for any of us to feel stressed, anxious and lonely during this time. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the consequences of Covid-19 on our mental, physical and psychological well-being have been very negative.

Physical health and mental health are inseparable. Together they form a balance that represents a person’s general state of health. According to the WHO, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and is not just the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Mental health is therefore the basis of an individual’s well-being and will fundamentally determine a person’s ability to function and deal with the problems of everyday life. Mental health also depends a lot on a person’s physical state of health, and vice versa.

It is important to recognise the value of our lives, pause and think, be free from the stress of city life and bad habits, make peace with ourselves, raise awareness about living well, and increase motivation.

Inner Sanctum: What wellness recommendations would you like to spread to the community?

I believe true beauty is rooted in the way we live and think and a healthy body.

As you may have noticed, people seem to take care of themselves only when they are really sick, or when they think they are losing or gaining weight. It’s almost a default of the human race. However, precautionary measures are absolutely necessary.

On how to take care of oneself, I personally think the mind is the basis, so maybe you should try to surround yourself with positive people who always have a smile on their face and get rid of stress as well as the people who cause it. 

In my view, big ideas really stem from the smallest actions. Long-term habits for us to live better must be done step by step. 

Let’s adopt simple activities every day to maintain a good lifestyle and protect the environment such as walking for an hour, drinking more water, avoiding plastic bottles, eating healthy food, doing a good deed, having dinner with your loved ones, and going to bed early. 

The most important thing is self-discipline. We all know what to do. Talking is easy, but committing is another story. It all boils down to what you actually do for yourself.

This year, we have an elaborate programme in Việt Nam. We have planned a range of activities, including dinners, lunches, meetings, workshops, and physical and intellectual activities prior to the official event on June 12. 

We will continue our activities until December with the focus on the Wellness Gala Dinner. 

Inner Sanctum: What should be done to raise people’s awareness about well-being amid the pandemic?

It is interesting how the pandemic, a heartbreaking disaster, has been creating a sense of urgency around the world, and thus increasing the need for awareness of well-being.

Wellness insiders, donors and healthcare workers around the world are trying to improve the effectiveness of communication, raising public awareness and educating people about wellness-related issues. 

We need help from everyone and every institution, including families, schools and companies, especially the media and advertising campaigns.

As the workload is colossal, it will be necessary to form teams or units with specialists and responsible people who can work together to strengthen public awareness and training campaigns. 

I think they can design a space, for example, a website where they can share the results, their experiences and perspectives. The site can be used to pool resources allocated for scientific research or initiatives to raise awareness, and to build knowledge based on what works and what doesn’t.

The team can work together to create communication standards, public awareness assessment, and training in welfare-related topics.  VNS 

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/spreading-the-word-about-theculture-of-wellness_323893.html

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Japanese artist’s ‘Element and Release’ exhibit opens at L’Usine

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Japanese artist Yohei Yama displays his new paintings at his solo exhibition “Element and Release”, at L’Usine until June 27. Photo from the organiser’s Facebook page

HCM CITY — Japanese artist Yohei Yama’s solo exhibition “Element and Release” has opened at L’Usine in HCM City.

Yama takes inspiration from scientific facts and the logical order of the universe to create swirling and inconsistent circles of tiny trees for his works, reflecting the unevenness of nature.

Yama is known for paintings with layers of lines, colour and patterns. His works are inspired by nature, spinning the waves of the cosmos and weaving together the rhythm of natural forces.

Yama worked as a photographer before he began painting at the age of 26. He has held more than 30 solo and group exhibitions in Japan, France and Việt Nam.

The “Element and Release” exhibition is open until June 27. The venue is at 19 Lê Thánh Tôn Street in District 1. — VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/events/japanese-artists-element-and-releaseexhibitopensat-lusine_324162.html

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