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Designer Thierry Vincienne.

VietNamNet Bridge – Thierry Vincienne decided to head for Asia while having a large number of customers in France and other European countries. He has finally settled down in Vietnam for the last 12 years.


The French designer called Vietnam his second homeland which in his words “is far away from where he was born but not very unfamiliar.” After 12 years of living in Vietnam, his feelings are still as same as what he found when he first arrived even though the Vietnamese language is still something of a struggle for him.


Since 2002, Thierry has been working as the main designer for the famous fashion brand name NEM – NEW. He was in charge of designing for movie stars, MCs of the weather forecast programme on VTV, the state owned television station as well as in many other TV shows.


After 12 years of living in Vietnam Thierry has a long story about his life here, which he shared with the press.


France has been a well known country in the fashion industry, so why did you decided to choose Vietnam as a place to settle down? Why did you to move to HCM City after more than 10 years of living and working in Hanoi?


Indeed the French fashion industry has a good reputation in the world, and I can not deny that I have been influenced by the renowned French designer Karl Lagerfeld (who designs for Coco Channel). However I chose Vietnam as a place to settle down as here I found the peace for my life. Also the people and the country have inspired me to create many fashion collections.


I am very proud of the fact that I have heard of, and “fallen in love with Vietnam” since I was in school nearly half a century ago. More importantly I want to bring to Vietnam, the country which I adore, the knowledge that I have learned about fashion.


I first graduated with a degree in medical study. After that I worked in the marine force. Leaving the army I decided to pursue fashion designing study. I had been working in the industry for quite a long time before coming here. I moved to Ho Chi Minh City as NEM NEW just started another branch in the city two years ago. My life in this city is not much different from what I did while in Hanoi. With a pencil and some papers, everyday I go to very popular places like small teashops at some corners to find the ideas and then to draw.


Are those places where you find the ideas for your collections?


The ideas are not simply about designs but also about the colours, materials and other things that go with the designs like shoes, belts, etc. I have found that, many people here don’t correctly understand the job of a fashion designer and the job therefore is not yet a popular one. In my opinion a professional designer has to travel, observe and then they will find ideas for their works.


Personally I really like the red colour of the Literature Temple in Hanoi and the yellow colour of Thai pagodas. I do think that, some ideas should always be fleshed out by a professional designer, so that new collections would take shape wherever he or she goes to.


It is said that your designs are usually very simple but so elegant, following that style, do you aim at customers who are upper class?


Many people said that my designs are very European but in fact they are the mixture of European and Asian style. A lot of my designs have been inspired by the beauty of Ao yem (the northern Vietnamese traditional costume for women), Hanbok (Korean traditional dress), or Kimono. The mixture somehow has made up my style.


I am planning to start my own company called Lady France, which will gather the experienced fashion designers, workaholics in the fashion industry who will follow the motto “Customers are Kings”. We hope to provide products which are of European standards but for Asian women in general and Vietnamese women in particular. These products will be sold for reasonable prices, but have high quality. We do think that all women have the rights to make themselves more beautiful.


What do you think about Ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress)? Do you think that one day your name – A French designer’s name would be attached with Ao dai?


I was strongly impressed by Ao dai since I first saw it. I think the most beautiful Vietnamese traditional dress is the Ao dai, and it will always be like that. Some Vietnamese customers have asked me to design Ao dai for them. However I don’t think that I should break into something so traditional.


Modifying the design of Ao dai should be applied to changing colours and marterials, while the design of the traditional dress should remain. Ao dai itself is already very beautiful. I love the attractions and the elegance of such a dress.


(Source: NLD)

by Greg LaRose
Quang Nguyen, who runs a group of financial service businesses in Gretna, said Vietnamese often shun mainstream businesses due to language and custom barriers. (Photo by Frank Aymami)

Quang Nguyen, who runs a group of financial service businesses in Gretna, said Vietnamese often shun mainstream businesses due to language and custom barriers. (Photo by Frank Aymami)

Editor’s note: This is the finale of a three-part series on the recovery of the Vietnamese business community after Hurricane Katrina.Short of running his own bank, Quang Nguyen offers just about every financial service a customer could need.

His modest storefront on Lafayette Street in Gretna offers insurance, mortgages, accounting and title services — even bail bonds.

Nguyen’s business is a testament to his entrepreneurial vision. It also reflects the lack of access to mainstream financial services for Vietnamese Americans. Nguyen said most of his business comes from Vietnamese, who often shun traditional avenues for conducting business due to the language barrier.

“Vietnamese tend to be very conservative, very private people,” he said. “They prefer to deal with Vietnamese businesses when they can because there is an understanding of that background.”

Barriers to the Vietnamese community’s progress go beyond language. Nonprofit Asian-American contingencies from around the country converged on New Orleans to assist Vietnamese residents after Katrina hit Aug. 29, 2005. The chief obstacle was the lack of assistance infrastructure to help set the community back on its feet.

“It’s not Los Angeles where you’ve got hundreds of community-based service organizations and chambers of commerce … that speak a multitude of languages and have relationships with government entities and foundations,” said Lisa Hasegawa, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.

Hasegawa said New Orleans, like other city and state governments, does not grasp the needs and inner workings of the Asian population, especially the Vietnamese who have only been in Louisiana for roughly 30 years. “Language is just part of it,” she said. “They shouldn’t just be meeting folks in the state or city government and learning about small business assistance programs for the first time after a disaster.”

Aaron Troung, owner of EZ Laundromat, needed help when he tried to resurrect his business in eastern New Orleans. He had evacuated to Houston with relatives and recalls Mayor C. Ray Nagin visiting Texas in September 2005 to urge displaced residents to return.

“I came back in November and didn’t have electricity or running water,” said Troung.

The Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corp. helped Troung and other Asian-American businesses after the storm. The first priority for the nonprofit business arm of the Catholic parish in Village de L’est was assisting residents and business owners with cleanup.

May T. Nguyen, CDC business development director, said grant funding was crucial for business owners, especially those who lived at their work place with their families.

Hasegawa’s group and the National Alliance of Vietnamese American Service Agencies based in Silver Spring, Md., worked with Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC to access outside assistance.

“We’re working to make sure they have access to the wealth of experience that other Asian-American communities have in this arena,” said Hasegawa. “… We had no relationships with folks in New Orleans or in the South prior to Katrina.”

NAVASA’s Dân Thân Corps diverted its efforts toward storm recovery last year. Its goal is to place and develop leaders among the next generation, said Phuong Do, project director.

She said Vietnamese people usually turn to the groups that assisted them as refugees in times of crisis and those group leaders have not evolved with the community since the 1970s. NAVASA research shows more than two-thirds of the leadership of Vietnamese organizations in the United States are older than 60.

“There’s always been this gap of leadership skills within the community,” Do said. “… The intention of the program is to bring in young people to fill in these gaps.”

Dân Thân Corps fellows helped Mary Queen of Vietnam secure nearly 200 trailer homes for residents.

The Katrina recovery has been at the forefront of the White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Jimmy Lee, appointed AAPI executive director in January, toured damaged areas on the Gulf Coast earlier this year and said cultural boundaries prevented some Vietnamese from receiving help.

“Asians are always relatively proud people,” he said. “Because they don’t have language capabilities, they just didn’t want to ask for assistance and so they decided they would just try to figure this thing out for themselves.”

To gain insight on disaster recovery, Lee said AAIP consulted with Korean business owners affected by the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict. Their main recommendation was the creation of a revolving loan fund for Asian-American businesses to be used following major catastrophes.•



New America Media, News Feature, Sara Catania, Oct 16, 2006

Editor’s Note: After Hurricane Katrina, the Latino population in New Orleans grew as other ethnic populations shrank in size. Remaining members of a close-knit Vietnamese community are learning to navigate cultural and linguistic differences with their new Latino neighbors — even if it means stocking tortillas next to rice paper in local markets.

NEW ORLEANS–Taqueria Mexico used to be a thriving Vietnamese restaurant called Bien Tinh, or Ocean Love. Now under new ownership, its waitresses serve salsa in the floral faux-china bowls that once held fish sauce.

“A lot is different now,” says Hai Pham, who sold Bien Tinh to a Mexican-American family from Houston. Pham’s was one of dozens of Vietnamese restaurants that after Hurricane Katrina were struggling to survive with far fewer customers. Now, whenever Pham stops by Taqueria Mexico, the place is bustling, the customers nearly all Latino. “They are the first restaurant around here to serve Mexican food and they do a good business,” Pham says. “I am happy for them.”

Vietnamese-Americans recovering from Katrina are grappling with a double challenge: the absence of friends and family who moved away after the storm and the appearance of a record number of Latinos in their previously autonomous community.

A state survey released this month counts nearly 7,000 Asians in New Orleans post-Katrina, compared with close to 12,000 in 2004. Latinos are the only ethnic group in the city whose numbers have grown, from about 14,000 to more than 16,000, according to the survey, conducted in February by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Recovery Authority. “We have seen Hispanics in areas of the city where we have never seen them before,” says Martin O. Gutierrez, director of immigration and refugee services for Catholic Charities in the city. “This is a very new phenomenon in New Orleans.”

The change is particularly noticeable in the neighborhood that Taqueria Mexico now calls home. Though most locals call the area Village de L’est, for its location in the eastern part of the city, some still refer to it as Versailles, after the government-subsidized housing complex that was home to many Vietnamese refugees when they first arrived in New Orleans in the 1970s and ’80s. Back then, the refugees were the newcomers in the largely African-American community. In subsequent decades the Vietnamese-American population in the Gulf Coast area grew to between 25,000 and 40,000 residents.

Those who remained in Village de L’est created what is widely regarded as the region’s Vietnamese-American hub, opening more than 50 businesses and building Mary Queen of Vietnam, the first Catholic Church in the nation to offer mass in Vietnamese.

After Katrina, the Vietnamese-American residents of Village de L’est were among the first return to New Orleans and begin gutting and rebuilding their homes. Construction workers from across the United States and Latin America descended upon the community, and the local businesses lining Chef Menteur Highway and Alcee Fortier Boulevard quickly began to adapt their products and services.

At the Mi-Viet market, rice papers now share shelf space with tortillas, tall bottles of Fresca line the cold case next to bubble tea, and plastic-wrapped pork chops are identified both as “bo-chuk tender” and “chuleta de cerdo.” A separate counter handles wire remittances to Latin America. Across the street at the Tien Pharmacy, owner John Nguyen recently added a payment service for cell phone bills. “It brings in new customers,” Nguyen says.

Martin Osorio saw opportunity as well. His family owns Taco Texas, a catering company in Houston that operates several loncheras, or lunch trucks. The trucks soon became a fixture in Village de L’est. Then one afternoon, as Osorio’s father was having lunch at Bien Tinh, Pham approached him and offered to sell him the restaurant.

“We thought he was kidding,” Martin Osorio recalled. But Pham was dead serious. Since the hurricane his wife had been running the restaurant alone while he’d been focusing on their downtown convenience store. “I felt it was not safe for her to be there by herself for so many hours,” Pham says. “We couldn’t find anybody to work there with her.”

The Osorios imported the taqueria’s nine-member Spanish-speaking work force from Houston. Even with a sizeable staff, Osorio works nonstop, rising at 4 a.m. and closing the doors at 8 p.m. Every two weeks he takes a quick trip back to Houston to see his wife, 3-year-old daughter and 2-month-old son.

Osorio says for the most part he has feels welcome in Village de L’est. In two months he’s had only one difficult encounter, when he sat down at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant for lunch and waited nearly an hour without being acknowledged. Finally he got up to leave and asked the proprietor for the key to the restroom. She refused, telling him the bathroom was out of order. He bristled. “I’d seen people going in and out of there the whole time,” he says. “I told her I have a right to use the bathroom and if you refuse to let me, I can sue you.” The woman relented and gave him the key.

May Thi Nguyen, business development director for the community development corporation created after the hurricane, is hoping to transform the commercial stretches of Village de L’est into an ethno-centric tourist destination. She has spent hours talking with the small business owners, many of them older Vietnamese- Americans who are struggling to adjust to their new neighbors. “It’s a huge shock here,” Nguyen says. “Everyone’s kind of taken aback. A lot of Vietnamese-Americans in this community have never left the area. It is very much a Vietnamese-American community.”

Nguyen, who has lived and worked in Argentina and Vietnam and is fluent in Vietnamese, English and Spanish, says she is unsure how Latinos would fit into the commercial development goals for the area. “We’re talking about a marketing scheme where we’re going to set up three flags out in the median: an American flag, a flag of the old Republic of Vietnam and a Louisiana flag,” Nguyen says. “I don’t know where the Mexican flag fits into that.”

Martin Gutierrez of Catholic Charities says increased diversity will only enrich the area. “It’s going to create great opportunities. There will be some friction, but at the same time we all believe diversity is a strength.”

Nguyen acknowledged that Latinos have invigorated Village de L’est, both economically and culturally. She has witnessed this dynamic in a market owned by her aunt. “My aunt is learning Spanish,” Nguyen says. “She’s learning how to say hello, how to tell customers how much something costs. It’s wild. I love it. It’s exciting.”

After talking with some of the Latino workers, Nguyen is taking a wait-and-see approach. “A lot of these changes are happening in response to the construction workers,” she says. “Some will leave. Will enough stay to make these changes permanent? Who knows?”

A study released in June by U.C. Berkeley and Tulane University found that about half the Latinos who moved to the region for work plan to stay, and there are indicators in Village de L’est that some are beginning to settle in. Word has spread quickly about Nguyen’s tri-lingualism, and the neighborhood’s new Spanish-speaking residents have begun seeking her out for advice. “They’ve been asking me where to send their kids to school and things like that,” she says. “They’ve pretty much ID’d me as that Asian girl in the community who can talk to them.”

At Mary Queen of Vietnam, Spanish-speaking workers have begun showing up for Sunday mass, even though services are conducted entirely in Vietnamese. “They know exactly what is going on,” says Fr. Vien The Nguyen, pastor of the church. “It was the same for us when we came here from Vietnam. Mass was in English, but it was still a Catholic mass and we understood. That’s the nature of a parish church. It’s always open. Anyone can come in.”

On a recent weekday afternoon at Taqueria Mexico, six small video monitors and one large-screen television competed with the stereo mariachis for the attention of diners in paint-splattered boots and baseball caps. Daniel Jeronimo, who arrived in New Orleans from Veracruz by way of Chicago six months ago, had just finished his first morning’s work in Village de L’est and was looking forward to lunch. “I saw this place and I came right over,” he said. “I can look at the menu here and everything is familiar to me.”

That is exactly what Martin Osorio likes to hear. The Taqueria has been so successful he’s considering expanding. “Right now we’re thinking about desserts and candies,” he says. Eventually he’d like to open a pool hall nearby.

If he does, he may find his customer base exceeding his target audience. “I would get so bored if all I did was hang out at the Vietnamese bars,” May Thi Nguyen says. “Hanging out at the Taqueria is a lot more exciting.”

Posted on 20 October 2006 – 07:47

Bets on foreign soccer matches will become legal next year in betting-crazy Vietnam, where a multi-million dollar gambling ring in a state agency led to the resignation of a cabinet minister in April. Newspapers quoted the Sports Minister on Friday as saying the National Sports Committee was seeking government approval to establish a joint venture with a foreign bookmaker to provide betting services on international soccer games.

The communist-run Southeast Asian country prohibits all forms of gambling, but illegal betting on soccer matches in England, Italy, Spain and other countries is very popular.

Officials have estimated around $1 billion is transmitted illegally every year for soccer betting.

Earlier this year, police arrested the boss of a state-owned road-building agency for running a gambling ring that bet $7 million of state money on football matches.

The Transport Minister resigned in April to take responsibility for the scandal, which led to new promises by the ruling Communist Party to fight corruption.

National Assembly lawmakers debated legalising football betting this week to meet strong public demand, but the proposal limits the amount of each bet to between 10 000 and 30 000 dong (less than US$2), officials said.

“The amount will not hurt people’s income, but be enough to entertain them,” Sports Minister Nguyen Danh Thai was quoted as saying in the VNExpress on-line newspaper .

Thai said the joint venture would invest around $70 million and that five foreign sports bookmakers, including a British firm, had shown interest in the project.

Initially, bets would be allowed only on overseas games and not the domestic Vietnam league, he said.