Saigon-based Một has a new perspective on consumerism. Check out the intriguing idea behind their functional and quality shoes made for everyone, every day and everywhere.
Trained in industrial design, Han Huynh wound up working in Silicon Valley and then Norway before moving back to Saigon in June 2016. Just 3 months later, she set out on a new path – making simple, functional and affordable shoes to suit life in the new city she’d discovered returning home. Manufactured in a factory owned by her childhood friend and designed to suit the lives of her generation, Một shoes are now sold online, with international delivery upon request, and via retailers around Saigon and Da Nang. Delivering a clear message on consumerism alongside a handy pair of strides for the men and women who shop from her, Han talked Hive Life through a design concept she hopes will represent the modern Vietnamese zeitgeist.
Based on the design principle of simplicity, Một makes just one style of unisex shoe that comes in both leather and canvas. “The shoes have just one slit in the middle that hides all the laces inside. The upper part is super clean with almost zero detail from far away and you can only see the stitches once you get closer,” explains Han. “The sole, on the other hand, has a lot of detail on the surface. It’s a contrast that I intentionally created.” For her, the shoes stand as a symbol of the power of the pared back. “The idea is that they’re a pair of shoes that you can wear all day. They don’t intimidate and they don’t discriminate. Technically, you can pair them with anything and you wouldn’t look out of place; you wouldn’t look horrible!” she laughs. So sure she is that this one design can weather all situations that she’s named her company after its singular offering – ‘Một’ literally means ‘one’ in Vietnamese.
For Han, these shoes represent a wider shift in the creative culture of her city. “We are embracing all the changes in Saigon at the moment,” she explains. “It’s changing rapidly every day, but ultimately, there’s a recognisable trait and lifestyle of what I like to call Vietnamese survivors, making the best of what they have with a very honest and straightforward work attitude.” For these people, function and form have always been separate. “It’s either very stripped down and very functional, or it’s unnecessarily over the top.” For her, Vietnamese culture is all about extremes. “If you’re very busy, you’re extremely busy. If it’s quiet, it’s extremely quiet. There is no in-between.” Han, however, wanted to introduce a product that would marry the two characteristics together by including both overt simplicity and subtle details “to make them reconsider what it is about these products that they like.”
Starting a brand in Saigon has not been easy. Speaking about her fellow entrepreneurs, she explains, “What these people are doing is basically experimenting. That’s why they keep themselves small-scale.” Still, she sees a growing community of creatives emerging who are prepared to take risks to test out their ideas. “We have a whole community of supporters and Vietnamese friends,” Han laughs. “People light up the moment they hear someone else is also trying a startup.”
Manufactured in District 8 in Saigon, Một is a truly homegrown brand and one focused on responsible consumerism. Han hopes in the future to make her production line completely green and in the meantime, positions her product as the antidote to trend-driven fast fashion. “Một is not a fashion statement; it’s a basic item. We encourage people to rethink what they really need. It’s our perspective on consumerism.” And, with it, potentially their recipe for success.