Destination: Vietnam: Hanoi
The whimsical bags of designer Christina Yu, a Hong Kong native who worked as an attorney before launching Ipa-Nima in 1997, are now internationally known, with outlets like Anthropologie in the U.S. But to see her newest lines, visit this girly boutique, whose walls are lined with Yu’s glitzy creations. The selection ranges from wallets and slender embroidered clutches to oversized leather bags. Yu is know for mixing and matching materials and colors, then embellishing the results with rhinestones, mother-of-pearl, brass, horn, embroidery or beads. If you miss Ipa-Nima in Hanoi, there are two more locations in Ho Chi Minh City. Also, women traveling in Cathay Pacific’s first class receive an embroidered Ipa-Nima pouch holding toiletries.
This lovely eco-label is the brainchild of French fashion designer Valerie Gregori McKenzie, who founded Song in 1996. The lightweight easy-to-wear clothes, made from such organic fabrics as silk, cotton and linen, range from traditional Vietnamese styles to more tropical beach-chic designs.
If you visit only one boutique in Hanoi, it should be this one, which carries exquisite embroidery plus a well-edited assortment of decorative objects, jewelry, fashion and gifts. In the many decades since Tan My was founded as a modest little shop by the mother of the present owner, designer Do Thanh Huong, it has grown to occupy three bright floors. You can find beautiful lacquer boxes and modern takes on the traditional ao dai costumes in stunning silks and brocades. But most come for the soft Vietnamese cottons and linens embroidered with images ranging from subtle flower blossoms and delicate feathers to bold dragons and Vietnamese landscapes, in an huge spectrum of colors. (Of course, custom embroidery is also available.) Huong works with two rural villages outside Hanoi whose women specialize in the ancient craft of embroidery (Huong herself hails from one of these villages, Thuong Tin). Be prepared to spend some time going through the beautifully displayed offerings; after—or during—a shopping spree, take a break at the ground-floor café, a serene spot to escape from the Old Quarter crowds and heat.
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