Hidden Gems - 01/26/18

Shop Local, Support Local

Written by Hive Life

Spotting a gap in the market for locally made, authentic keepsakes, The Craft House in Saigon was launched as Vietnam’s first curated retailer of modern craft and design dedicated to supporting the creative talent of Vietnamese makers.

Visitors to Saigon flock to its infamous Ben Thanh market for everything from spring rolls to souvenirs. It’s a bucket-list destination cluttered with more tchotchkes than any person could dream of, yet, for many it fails to deliver really authentic keepsakes that truly represent Vietnam. For those who agree, there is luck in store, because 4 friends have opened a sleek bricks and mortar destination, The Craft House, entirely dedicated to stocking unique, handmade pieces crafted by local artisans. Providing an affordable retail space and platform for people previously struggling to get their products seen, The Craft House is reshaping the way makers sell and consumers buy in Vietnam.

Founded by four local creatives and entrepreneurs: Trang Hoang, Toan Nguyen, Nancy Le and My Pham, The Craft House opened in 2017. Trang had started her creative career as a recent graduate in the United States by selling handmade matchbox-cards on Etsy. The original concept garnered interest from around the world, and she quickly partnered with a friend to create a small handmade stationery company called 3XU. Moving home to Vietnam in 2016, she decided to continue her online business from Saigon, and, soon after returning, she met fellow entrepreneur Toan Nguyen who was running different local brands specialising in fashion accessories, furniture, home décor, souvenirs and gifts.

The two partnered for 3XU and a few smaller projects and quickly identified an unmet need on their doorstep. “Toan and I were both selling our products online to the foreign market. We realized that there was a lack of high-quality, curated craft and gift providers in our market,” Trang explains. “It had always been hard to buy memorable gifts for a friend’s birthday or a housewarming party. I’d have to go from store to store. Once I found a gift, I’d have to go to a bookstore to get a greeting card, another store to get the gift wrapped, it would take a lot of time. That’s how we got the idea for The Craft House. We decided to team up and create a common space where we could showcase our products and also highlight the overlooked talent that lies within a rapidly growing country with a population of more than 93 million.”

The two entrepreneurs invited other local makers to join them, creating a one-stop-shop where consumers could choose from a variety of locally made goods ranging from homemade stationary and souvenirs to jewelry, leather goods, furniture and clothing whilst also allowing vendors to share resources and save costs on rent. Run like an upscale market, with each brand occupying its own designated, branded space, the owners also encourage their makers to treat their particular corner as their very own store, encouraging them to engage in their own marketing activities and develop their own displays, and inspiring cross-brand partnerships as they go. As they put it, “We believe that the success of The Craft House is determined by the success of each and every participating member and strive to create a cooperative playground that accentuates each brand identity while taking advantage of shared resources.”

The Craft Shop selects only locally made products that the founders believe will truly add value to someone’s life. It also looks to elevate the whole process of buying, placing an emphasis on, “providing a seamless and memorable shopping experience” for each customer, offering gift wrapping services and creative workshops in addition to the more than 40 independent brands covering thousands of unique products.

“We want our customers to discover the talent in our country,” Trang explains. “I’ve heard so many people complain about a lack of availability of locally made products. In reality, there are tons of extremely talented local makers; their work just hasn’t been discovered.” The Craft House is working to change this narrative, drawing attention to the vast talent whispering through Vietnam and connecting consumers, both local and tourists, to products with heritage and soul. So, next time you find yourself preparing to purchase a fridge magnet as common in Vietnam as a coffee shop, visit The Craft House instead. Your authentic piece of Vietnam is waiting to be discovered.

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