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5 unique souvenir gifts from Vietnam

Finding something different and unique is a challenge. Mass production, cheap materials and reused ideas you find everywhere. Living in Vietnam since 2000, I have seen the progress and changes to the country over the years. I still believe Vietnam can do a better job promoting its beauty and I wanted to contribute with what I know best. That is photography.

Photographers tend to publish books and postcards. My graphic design background has always made me think in different ways. I always liked lacquer as a craft. There is something about handmade process that adds a difference to a product. It is not just stamped out from a machine in the hundreds, it is actually crafted by hand.

I started experimenting with the ancient lacquer making technique and modern print technology. From that our photographic lacquer coaster sets were born.

1. Lacquer coaster sets

O&M Coaster Set

Photographed with an old vintage Kodak camera, the Kodak Duaflex II. From the 1950’s, this camera brings a distinct style to the images. Printed on hand plated silver base, then several rounds with lacquer coating, also done by hand.

Each coaster set is handmade and unique. From O&M.

 

From printing on hand plated silver to fabric. Pillows were the next step. Featuring motifs from around Vietnam, these pillows make the perfect present:

2. Decorative pillows with photographic print 

O&M Decorative Pillow

It has never been easier to ship a slice of Vietnamese heritage to your living room. As seen above, a set of Vietnamese water puppet dolls photographed in the ancient city of Hoi An. Each tote bag gets produced on demand and assembled by hand before shipping. From O&M Collection Store.

 

Then we applied the printing techniques to t-shirts. A full print t-shirt is wearable art. Truly different.

3. T-shirts with sublimation prints, full coverage

O&M T-shirt

Anyone walking the streets of Saigon have seen the cable and wire madness. Standing at most street corners, it is easy to spot the cable monsters above. Printed on both sides, these t-shirts take you straight into the cable jungle. Each pillow case gets produced on demand and assembled by hand before shipping. From O&M Collection Store.

 

Expanding our option with wearable art, we started a tote bag range. Simple, elegant and functional. Different photographs for different occasions. Below is one of our favourites.

4. Tote bags with French cement tiles patterns 

O&M Tote Bag

The French brought with them their cement tiles making techniques. You can walk on their heritage throughout Vietnam. These tile patterns I found deep in the Mekong, at one of the eldest Khmer pagodas. A variety of patterns cover the floor and I documented most of them. Any trip you take around Vietnam will reward you with photographic opportunities. Vietnam is indeed a hidden charm. You need to seek out in order to find. From O&M’s Collection Store.

 

We also offer the traditional photographic print. Wearable only for walls, they do add character to where ever they hang on display. For other size, please get in touch.

5. Framed poster prints shipped to your doorstep

O&M Square Poster Print

An affordable alternative to our silver plated lacquer prints and silver plated canvas prints. Each poster prints on Epson Ultra Premium Luster Photo Paper. 

​A detail from one of the stunning rooftops seen in Hue city. The emblems are unique for the area and I have only spotted them outside of Hue at Hue restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. From O&M’s Collection Store.

 

Want to know about new releases? Sign up for our Newsletter at the O&M Collection Store website or follow our Business Page on Facebook. We release new products on a regular basis. 

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Photography, Review

Fashion Creation – From idea to final show

The street lights glowed in the dark as the light drizzle added a soft shine to the road leading up to Gala Royal. It was early evening, June 20th 2013, and the TK09 students from Hoa Sen’s first bachelor program of Fashion Design  were about to start their graduation show “Fashion Creation”.

Inside, guests were filling up the seats, photographers assembling their gears and video tripods marked the press pit area. Models walked past, en route to back stage changing area while designers could be spotted across the room due to their serious faces. Tension was in the air. The rest of the crowd was at ease, smiling, reading the program and conducting small talk.

It was as any other fashion show, except to the designers involved, this did not feel like any other show, this was their show and it showed. From the serious faces before start, then the anxious looks when their models braved the catwalk, to the joy and sheer happiness when they walked the catwalk themselves, receiving applause for their efforts. Online, likes were being racked up on the various walls as proud parents and friends had already broadcasted the event to their Facebook streams.

A milestone, one of many more to come, had been achieved this evening and for that I would say it was a successful event. They had shipped their products and delivered. They had gone through with their ideas and visualised them. It takes a lot of hand work and dedication to bring ideas to life, however, no matter the hardship, the smiles of joy that evening made it all worth it. It felt great to witness it from front row.

Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation Hoa Sen Graduation Show – Fashion Creation

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Photography

Collaboration with JnG Couture in Saigon, Vietnam

Working with passionate people is always good and you finish with your energy levels boosted and a wish to push things further and further. Meeting John will give you that experience, he brings fresh flavour to anyone he works with and it is always a pleasure to collaborate with him. Here are samples from two sessions that we did together, one location and one studio.

For the location, we turned his hotel room into make-up and changing room for the two models and then started the short walk down to Ben Thanh market By the time we had set up light and started shooting, we had already gathered quite a crowd that followed us throughout the whole session. Turning quite a few heads.

In front of Ben Thanh Market.

Inside by the meat section of Ben Thanh Market.

Showstopper.

Close up image.

John and Isabelle Du.

 

Second session took place in the studio, John styled the various outfits and we decided on doing jumps, to capture the energy flowing. The model was a good sport and had to do quite a few jumps before we were done. Easier to work inside with the air conditioner running and then montage the sunny outdoor scene in place in post production.

Our male model.

Getting the right jump and expression.

Different style.

Transferred to outdoor.

To see more of John’s work look here and to see an interview, click here.

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Design, Photography

Duyên Dáng Việt Nam – Charming Vietnam, the new magazine

It started with a phone call. Most of the time it just does that. A ring. Some vibrations. Then a “hello”, as a command line interpreter, spelling out “Hello World”

It was an old colleague of mine. In need of some help. Design help. They had a new project, a magazine, and they wanted a different direction and thought of me.

I was humbled and flattered, it would be my third magazine to art direct and my first since I started my own studio. In the three years since I left my art director position to focus on photography, the studio has moved on from providing initially editorial services to a full service production house for advertising campaigns.

Want us to photograph only, yes, we still can do that. Want us to provide talent/wardrobe/props et al, yes, we can also do that. High end retouch services, yes, that too. Need a video, yes, we have a collaboration team to help us out on that, just like we did here for Mindshare Vietnam

Life seems to go in circles. I started out as an art history student, getting lured into the student newspaper as a photographer. Securing an apprenticeship with a commercial photography studio before setting up my own studio collective. Moving to London and studied graphic design at St.Martin’s. Working both as a designer and a photographer before moving to Vietnam. Art directing magazines and running an in-house photo studio for almost six years. Setting up my own studio again and now back into editorial design, expanding again, we just hired an in-house designer and are designing “Charming Vietnam” on a monthly basis.

Like Yin and Yang, my career is interlinked with design and photography. For the first issue I was commissioned to do the fashion article. I became my own art director. One of the things in life that you will only realize the hard way, is that besides from trying to make darkroom prints at night when you are exhausted after a full day work is 99% a waste of time, is that multi tasking is overrated. Focus matters.

So on the day of the fashion shoot we arrived at the showroom of the designer. That was our venue. I had been given “The Quiet American”, 1950’s as reference. That translates into vintage feel.

The showroom on ground floor was long and narrow. Not many angles to work and fortunately not the place where we were going to shoot. We headed up the stairs. More space and more people. On a set it can easily build up to be quite a crowd, however, this was clearly the wrong kind. Construction workers. Cutting metal bars and welding the bits together made any rave party look and sound like a quiet church teatime session.

I had two areas with daylight access and approaching rain clouds on the horizon. About an hour, an hour and a half tops, to cover eight outfits. Initially ten, however, we only had six pages at disposal, so eight leaves enough room. As a layout designer, the more options, the better. As a photographer, limited time plus limited suitable working angles to make a coherent look and feel equals less outfits to shoot.

Sometimes it is good to be your own boss.

We managed to finish off the session as the rain started hitting the building and swallowing the ambient light and it was time to wrap it up as a photographer and start making selections as an art director.

Once I had narrowed down to 2-3 images per outfit, I could start working on the page design. It is a puzzle without a visual reference to follow. The bits are put in place and moved around until they feel right. Sometimes it is easy, other times it takes a lot of time. I finished the first option, not completely happy and having learned my lessons the hard way in the darkroom, I left it at that. At the point of creative fatigue.

Continued the next day. Reworked the flow and order again and again until I this time, felt confident that this was how it was going to be presented. Left it again for the next day. Still the same feeling. Did not change it more.

Here is the session; six pages spread.

Spread 1 of the fashion story

Spread 2 of the fashion story

Spread 3 of the fashion story

 

Here is the poster for the cover, taken from the fashion session.

Charming Vietnam cover poster

Here are sample spreads of the layout.

Inside spread 1

Spread 2

 

The best part, our client is happy and took us out on celebration lunch today, yay!

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Photography, Recommended, SaigonCreative

SGN Style, a new project sees the light, yay!

A new blog project to promote up and coming creatives in Saigon. The second project to see the light in 2011. The first one is Saigon Creative, the monthly inspirational breakfast talk. Due to internal restructuring, aSaigonCreativeMorning became Saigon Creative and has now a new website address: http://saigoncreative.blogspot.com/

If you signed up on the old site, please follow the link to the new and sign up again for the latest updates regarding the events. Yes, it is a bit inconvenient, however, we don’t have a way to port the existing subscribers to the new site, so please bear with us.

The second project is SGN Style, a blog featuring up and coming fashion designers styling themselves. We want newcomers to have an outlet to present themselves and gain attention from the press. Simple as that. Visit the website for more information and sign up for future blog posts: http://fashionista-saigon.blogspot.com/

Please meet Justin, Celina and Frankytars!

Justin

Celina

Frankytars

If you are a fashion designer/stylist/photographer, please get in touch if you want to be part of the project. Pro bono. Everybody involved donates their own time and services.

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Photography

The colorful ones – Saigon brightens up

Colourful Saigon, street style.

Talking about Vietnamese fashion, the Ao Dai comes to mind, however, the real deal is something practical and often quite outstanding, in terms of colour that is. How come? Are bright colours the equivalent to the reflective safety vests?

Colourful Saigon, street style.

Walking the streets of Saigon you will not easily become the next Sartorialist as the most fashionable dressed people simply do not walk the streets, especially not under the sun. Tourists are seen walking, office workers during lunch time can sometimes be spotted and street vendors plying the streets. The rest, they travel around by motorbikes or cars, stopping outside their destinations, spending as little time walking the streets as they have to.

People literally park their motorbikes at shop entrances. Valet parking service is common at more fashionable shopping establishments. Walking is simply done in the morning, 5.30am at the park, if you are into public exercising.

Colourful Saigon, street style.

Colourful Saigon, street style.

Colourful Saigon, street style.

Colourful Saigon, street style.

Public eye and public space. People are not so shy in public, from squeezing zits or picking noses to men unzipping behind electrical poles, marking it doggy style, so when wearing your pajamas, nobody raises their eyebrows as it is old school style.

Pajamas old school style.

“Fashion fades, only style remains the same” Coco Chanel.

It sums up the final image, Mr Style, walking the street.

"Fashion fades, only style remains the same."

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Photography

The masked riders of Saigon’s streets.

One of Saigon's masked riders stopped for texting, actually a rare, but welcomed sight, as the majority multi-tasks while riding.

Motorbikes are plentiful in Saigon. Over 4 millions according to travelers websites, and in 2000 alone, 1.4 million units were produced locally and sold. According to a survey from 2008, 26 million vehicles are registered in Vietnam, 95% of them are motorbikes. Over 9000 new motorbike registrations daily.

An Arizona cowboy. Digital ID: 1610053. New York Public Library

The numbers are just numbers until you meet the herd. Unlike the masked riders of the Old Wild West, riders of the East have less space and more riders and faster means of transportations. The Old West could be lawless and preach the “survival for the fittest” mantra and it has more or less not changed here.

Bikes have to give way for bigger vehicles and bus drivers are regularly referred to as “Devils on wheels” and don’t even start talking about lorry drivers. With horns that blow you off the road if you are lucky or under the wheels when you are not.

Late 2007, the Vietnamese government made the second attempt at introducing mandatory helmets for all motorbike riders. The first attempt failed within the cities as people rather paid the fine than to “destroy their fashionable look” by wearing helmets. The second attempt was better, however, the law had to later be amended to include reference to how the strap should be secured as many simply put the helmet on when they noticed the traffic police. Others were riding with the strap too loose, and it is still common to see riders stop to pick up their helmets as they flew off their heads while riding at higher speed on the highway.

Despite getting people to wear helmets and the efforts to get them to wear them correctly, too many have opted for sub-standard helmets that you can pick up for around US$2 and upwards. 80% of helmets in circulation are reported to fail standards.

Some still refuse to wear them at all as seen below.

Still refusing to wear a helmet while riding a motorbike.

All hooded up. Hoods are always in fashion amongst bike riders, especially female, as hoods help them to cover up from the sun. Hoods with text/lettering on can be of endless amusement due to numerous spelling mistakes and/or subject matter. Ignorance can be bliss sometimes and the topic is worthy of its own blog post.

Hooding up.

Wearing a hood with English text.

Despite the hot climate, gloves are being used to shield the sun rays. Even boys can be seen riding with their wrists turned upwards to “minimize” their exposure and sometimes people ride with umbrellas as shield. Colourful socks worn in flip-flops are also part of the sun protection kit.

Layered head wear, colorful socks and hand gloves, all set to combat sun rays.

The habit of stopping, sometimes on the pavement in order to text or call, is picking up, especially if you have an expensive phone. Yes, the majority of riders are still using their phone while riding, however, others can easily ride up alongside and snatch the phone. Once you have had one or a few phones stolen, you start thinking security and for optimal security, you park on the pavement.

Optimal security stance, texting on pavement.

An unwritten rule it seems, the following rider combinations are commonly used. Single riders, self explanatory. Dual riders, the obvious options: two females or two males. Then, when you start mixing, you will notice, male rider and female passenger, more or less all the time. The most typical exception to spot in District 1, female rider and expat male passenger, either newly arrived or too scared to ride.

Following the unwritten rule, male motorbike rider with female passenger.

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Photography

Music, fashion and passion

Kari Rueslåtten

It’s super. Music, fashion and passion. Super 8. Kari brought the music and it is absolutely worth listening to “Other people’s stories”.  Photographed at Ramsgate beach, England. It was a long train ride, something that you end up missing living here in Vietnam. Trains are simply the best of public transport, as long as there are no leaves on the track or other delay reasons. Getting a seat, enjoy a conversation or simply read books for an hour (or more) and then you are there.

Compare that to riding a motorbike on the streets of Saigon, having to keep track on every single movement as nobody cares to use their rearview mirrors or even turn and look behind. Motorbike or even bike riders that could easily have put any kamikaze pilot to shame will come out from small alleyways and be in front of you before you know it. Blink and you collide. Look somewhere else and you collide. Be paranoid and expect anything can appear in front of you and you stay safe. I rather read a book on a train.

Kari Rueslåtten

Also captured on the super 8 was one of the earliest collections of fashion designer Siv Støldal.

Fashion on Super 8

Fashion on Super 8

Fashion on Super 8

Fashion on Super 8

Photographed in Avondale Road, close to Green Lanes in London. Green Lanes is a Greek and Turkish area of London, with freshly baked bread in quite a few varieties and the same for hummus and olives. Great place for food.

However, I must admit a fondness now for Vietnamese food after spending close to a decade here already. Time really flies. Too fast. Music on. Time for more captures. Here we go. Passion!

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Photography

As light travels through the lens and records itself, I took a journey to the other side.

Facing the crowd from the catwalk.

Entering the catwalk and facing the crowd.

A photographer is seldom seen as we tend to enjoy staying behind the lens, not in front, unless you are Terry Richardson, that is.

Levi’s Vietnam was putting together a fashion show at their flagship store on Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh City and provided the opportunity for me to see the other side of the camera. Not only to see; participate; as a model.

It all started out with an invite: “Will you do it or not?” “Yes, will do.” “Great, come in for fitting, pick out what you like to wear for the show. Btw, you will be judged. See you!”

Show day came, arrived early and sent straight to the hair stylist followed by make-up and then a dress rehearsal before changing into the selected outfit and waiting for the time to enter the catwalk.

Undergoing make-up. Image courtesy of Jamie Lowe.

Undergoing make-up. Image courtesy of Jamie Lowe.

A ritual long familiar with except as a spectator, until the moment the model is ready and you are a photographer, capturing moments that you see fleeting in front of you, trying to anticipate and capturing it while it springs out in full blossom. Once you see it and try to capture, it will be wilted by the time your shutter closes. You have to feel the moment and press your shutter while the magic takes place. Passion.

Walking down the stairs and facing the crowd I simply had to capture the moment being on the other side by capturing the opening image above while being captured by so many, including my comrade Jamie.

Mads Monsen photographing the crowd. Image courtesy of Jamie Lowe.

Facing the crowd and photographing the opening image above. Image courtesy by Jamie Lowe.

Levi’s Vietnam has put a video from the show available online and are getting press amongst the Vietnamese blogosphere. “Are you famous now?” “Famous, no, I am the anonymous foreign photographer according to the local press.”

A big thank you to my friend Jamie for supplying me with images for the blog post.

Jamie Lowe, the catwalk photographer.

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