June 15, 2009

The urban ease and European elegance that made Saigon, well, Saigon, is helping shape present-day Ho Chi Minh City. Drawing on the talents of ambitious native and expatriate local designers, the current movement is impacting everything from ceramics to haute couture. At the collective known as · Gaya (39 Thon That Thiep St.; 84-8/914-3768), five up-and-coming designers produce hand-painted lacquerware and stunning stilettos. A handbag's toss from the Hôtel de Ville is · SXS (87 Pasteur St.; 84-8/823-0172), where Sylvie Tran Ha's backless silver gowns and zebra-striped sandals would make Marc Jacobs proud. · THACA (23 Dong Khoi St.; 84-8/ 829-8086 and 106 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia; 84-8/823-4465) caters as much to the pop-influenced tastes of its Japanese clientele as it does to in-the-know Vietnamese with items like Taka Sawamura's signature Bagie Boogie handbag. At · Song (76D Le Thanh Ton St.; 84-8/914-4088) you'll find linen caftans and embroidered silk pillows. Trend-setting department store · Zen Plaza (54–56 Nguyen Trai; 84-8/925-0339) has become a training ground for emerging talents; their bias-cut fashions are mounted in museum-like displays. Members of the city's beau monde favor couturier · Minh Khoa (48 Nguyen Hue; 84-8/829-8934), who has made a career out of reimagining iconic garments. Get a custom ao dai from · Sy Hoang (36-38 Ly Tu Trong St.; 84-8/829-9156), a skilled tailor who makes traditional pieces from finely woven silks. —ROB MCKEOWN

Sy Hoang

Minh Khoa

Pick up a Vietnamese ao dai (a woman's costume of tunic and flowing pants) reinvented by Minh Khoa, Ho Chi Minh City's edgiest couturier.

Zen Plaza

One of the city’s premier shopping destinations, Zen Plaza is a retail center containing several floors of shops, including designer brands like Diesel, as well as a food court with options like Pho 24 and a photo studio. The distinctive black-and-white-checkered building also houses office space, and shoppers can find clothing items from both leading Vietnamese designers, such as Trong Nguyen and Thanh Long, and popular Western labels, such as Pierre Cardin. The ground floor is dedicated to women’s clothing.  

Sông

Valerie Gregori McKenzie, a French clothing designer based in Saigon, sells her breezy resort wear (sundresses, tops, and sarongs in soft cotton, silk, and linen) and yoga separates at this pleasant and well-run boutique, which emphasizes ethical sourcing of fabrics. Also on offer: a fine selection of bed linens and throw pillows.

Thaca

This venue is closed.

SXS

Gaya, Ho Chi Minh City

The white-on-white Modernist building that houses Gaya makes a dramatic first impression (yes, those are giant fountain-pen nibs on the façade). Inside, you'll find the best haute souvenirs in all of Saigon. Highlights include Michele de Albert's lacquer bowls (from $18) and trays (from $36) in psychedelic colors; with 12 coats of varnish, they practically glow from within.

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