The everyday hat

October 10, 2007

The everyday hat
09:08′ 09/10/2007 (GMT+7)


VietNamNet Bridge – The popularity of conical hats from Chuong craft village has made ‘non Chuong’ virtually a brandname in Vietnam. Duc Hanh explains the power behind Vietnam’s most recognizable hat.

I had pictured craftsmen sewing conical hats inside brown tile-roofed houses in Chuong village, where thousands of conical hats (non la – literally leaf hat) are produced daily, meaning it’s considered the home of the conical hat in today’s Vietnam. But I hadn’t expected a main thoroughfare lined with multi-storey houses and shops flogging electric equipment, the latest fashions and canned food.

However amongst these symbols of progress and modernism, I see a smattering of conical hats on the heads of old women chewing betel nuts and young girls, all dressed in pink blouses, sitting around gossiping.

Away from the bustling market, in a more tranquil part of the village, I discover the engine room of conical hat production. A man in shorts and a T-shirt carries a pile of leaves towards a girl, who turns the leaves over in the sun. These leaves will be plaited through a bamboo frame to make a conical hat.

Further along the dyke, an old woman is supervising her nephews who are sewing hats. Looking at her crooked back, wrinkled face and shriveled hands, it’s hard to imagine that she can hold her hands steady enough to do the needlework, but she manages ably.

“My mother taught me to sew non la when I was six years old. Now that I’m 78 I could sew hats with my eyes closed,” says Tam with a wide smile that reveals more than a few missing teeth.
It seems every family in Chuong village is making conical hats; in fact, 80 per cent of the village’s population lives off conical hat production. The average income is around VND700,000 to VND1 million a month; summer income is higher than winter as it is harder to sew the hats in winter so production drops off.

It takes an hour to sew a normal non la, one that might be used by a farmer in the field, but it can take all day long to make a more fanciful one.

During summer the whole village seems to have their heads down. Raw materials are stacked high. Fresh hats sit in piles. The average income is around VND15,000-25,000 a day per household. The wholesale price is VND3,500- VND10,000 a hat. In Hanoi a hat might cost VND30,000 to VND100,000 depending on the quality.

Improved transportation and telecommunication services mean that Chuong is a ceaseless production chain catering for customers the length and breadth of Vietnam.

In total Chuong village produces 7,000 to 8,000 conical hats a day and about three million hats a year for Vietnam and for export.

“Our regular clients from the south, the centre or other northern provinces phone in orders so we can deliver immediately,” said Tuy, a 40-year old craftsman. “My latest contract is signed with a handicrafts export company to export 5,000 Vietnamese conical hats to Japan.”

“We’re very skillful with our hands. We have to sew smooth and regular stitches as well as hide the knots at the end of the strand,” says Tran Hung, one of the village’s craftsmen.

Conical hats must be as durable as they are light. Each one is made with a frame of 16 bamboo rings. It should shade but not cover the face.

To represent Vietnamese heritage at the APEC 14 held late last year, Chuong craftsmen from Hung Vuong workshop spent 15 days creating a hat which had a 1.5m diameter, stood 3.6m high and weighed in at 15kg.

There are hundreds of other kinds of non la in Vietnam. You could fill a museum with samples from each ethnic minority through the country. But each one is made from palm leaves, bamboo string or thread.

According to historian Le Van Lan, the Vietnamese people have donned the conical hat for a long time. The ancestor of today’s non was carved on a Ngoc Lu kettledrum and Ao Thinh bronze jar 2,500 to 3000 years ago.

“Though no one knows exactly when the hat was born, for a long time the conical hat has been considered the symbol of Vietnamese farmers and Vietnamese people, in general,” says Lan. “It is easy to wear, easy to find the materials and easy to make, it’s also cheap and durable. And it is suitable with the scorching hot, continuous rainy and wet climate of Vietnam.”

“Besides sheltering you from rain and sun, it can be used as fan when you are hot, as a water ladle when you are thirsty, as a basket when you go to market without bag, and it’s very charming when a girl uses it to hide her awkward face!”

It is also an iconic symbol artists and even fashion designers cannot ignore.

“I use the conical hat as a traditional material to reflect modern life. For me, the conical hat is a symbol of Vietnamese women who are graceful and tender but also steadfast. The hat is very light and thin but it can confront nature,” says designer Minh Hanh.

While Hue-based artist Dinh Khac Thinh, who created an installation of 5,000 conical hats which was showcased at the Hue festival in 2006, wanted to honour the humble craftsmen who produce the hats day to day.

“Installation art pieces are all about viewing and touching. Besides creating an artwork, I wanted to highlight a cultural value and honour the skillful hands of craftsmen as well as present an opportunity for them to introduce their products to the world,” says Thinh.

At the same festival fellow artist Le Thua Tien also created an installation piece of one huge conical hat made out of 400 normal ones.

The legend behind the hat is that once upon a time there was a very tall woman who often wore a magical kind of hat made from four round leaves knitted together with bamboo. Her hat was as large as the sky itself. This kind-hearted woman always appeared to shelter people caught in heavy rain. Wherever she appeared clouds passed and the weather became favourable. She also taught people to plant vegetables and trees to live.

Then one day she passed and ascended to the heavens but she was honoured as the Goddess of Human Defence and ever since they have made hats in the shape of hers to protect themselves from the sun and the rain. This hat became know as the non la (conical hat).

(Source: Timeout)

Pop singers try their luck as movie actors
13:24′ 09/10/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Scratch a method actor and what do you get? Another actor, says the old industry adage. If you were to do the same in Vietnam, however, the chances are you’d find a vocalist.

Four members of AC&M, the boyband whose members are the latest pop idols trying to make the leap to the silver-screen.
The outsiders: Four members of AC&M, the boyband whose members are the latest pop idols trying to make the leap to the silver-screen.

It seems the Vietnamese film industry is suffering from a poor self-image – judging by the latest batch of good-looking pop stars to grace our screens.

Among the wannabes to have successfully made the transition are Nguyen Phi Hung, Ho Quynh Huong, Phuong Thanh and Lam Truong.

No doubt directors, and producers recognise a good marketing opportunity when they see one.

“Their fame and their fans are a big attraction to us and are foremost in our minds when we cast a singer in an acting role,” said Khai Anh, who directed the recent TV hit Nhat Ky Vang Anh (Vang Anh’s Diary).

Anh has been very successful at exploiting fan loyalty, and singers that instantly come to mind are Hoang Hai, Le Hieu, My Dung, Cao Thai Son and Bich Ngoc.

However, it’s not just cynical, one-sided exploitation on the part of the movie industry – many a fading pop singer has managed to revive his or her flagging singing career by flirting with film.

Ho Ngoc Ha, who began as a singer more years ago than she’d perhaps care to admit, managed to multiply her fan-base by taking on acting roles.

While Ngo Thanh Van reinvented herself for the lead role in The Rebel this summer, which has become one of the highest-grossing Vietnamese films of all time.

“I love both singing and acting,” gushes Van, no doubt lapping up the attention.

Hoang Hai, the most sought after singer-cum-thespian in Vang Anh’s stable of actors, said the difference between the two performing arts is less clear-cut than they first appears.

“The two disciplines are not dissimilar. I like acting because it allows me to explore my character, dig out unknown facets to my nature. Moreover, acting is great fun and invaluable experience for singers,” says Hai.

However, not every singer has found acting to their liking. Famous pop stars, such as Nguyen Phi Hung, Lam Truong and Phuong Thanh, did little more than dip their toe in television before scurrying back to their first love.

Others are less willing to put their lucrative singing careers on hold while they devote their time and energy to acting.

“In Vietnam, you can make money from singing but not acting. I mean, every Vietnamese movie actor has to make sacrifices to develop their careers,” says The Rebel’s star Van.

And there are those like Tran Hai Minh who believe pop stars should do what they know best.

“Almost every singer now acting has never had any professional training. All they have is their celebrity and their voices. Directors lining up to cast them in a role have given them the misguided notion that they are talented film stars, rather than just decorative props,” said Minh.

Director Nguyen My Khanh, who began shooting the musical Acappella this month, believes in casting actors whose real lives match those of the parts they are playing.

“I am very interested in working with actors whose fictional characters are similar to their own. If they can relate to the part they will put their heart and soul into getting it right,” said Khanh.

Which is why she has cast the band AC&M to star in her latest work.

“Things will be much better when singers who want to be actors realise they are involved in a serious work of art rather than a promotional campaign for their own careers,” she said.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Vietnam may have films banned for children under 16
01:20′ 10/10/2007 (GMT+7)

Ms. Muoi, the first thrilling film in Vietnam that is classified to not be appropriate for audiences of less than 16 years old

VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnam Cinema Administration has introduced a draft regulation on film censorship, in which films are divided into two kinds: for audiences of over and under 16 years old.


The classification of films based on audience age is considered a must for professional movies, said Head of the Vietnam Cinema Administration Lai Van Sinh about the draft regulation.


“In the past, Fafilm Vietnam exclusively imported films so it was quite easy to control films but now we have many film importers so it is necessary to classify films clearly,” Sinh said.


He added that this way of classification would benefit audiences because adults could watch movies without scenes cut.


“With clear rules, Vietnamese film producers will know how to make suitable works and not be afraid that some scenes in their films will be cut by the censorship council,” Sinh said.


To compile this regulation, the Vietnam Cinema Administration is referring to film classifications of other countries.


The administration will collect opinions from film producers, experts, and related agencies about the draft regulation.


Some worry that if films are classified based on age, viewers will have to present ID cards at cinemas.


However, some film producers and directors support the draft regulation, and say that it is no problem to submit ID cards at cinemas and some countries do the same thing.


(Source: Tuoi Tre)

Fashion TV to feature ao dai collections
16:24′ 22/08/2007 (GMT+7)

Vo Viet Chung

VietNamNet Bridge – For the first time, international fashion channel Fashion TV will feature Vietnamese fashion: ao dai (traditional dress) collections by leading designer Vo Viet Chung.

Award-winning designer Vo Viet Chung said he himself was quite surprised when he first learned his collections would appear on Fashion TV. “I was chosen since according to Michael Gleissner, Fashion TV’s Asia Director, my ao dai collections are really special.

Each ao dai has its own story to tell. And through these collections, he said he saw their designer’s love of his country,” said Vo Viet Chung. The collections to be featured are award-winning Co Ba xu Viet (Vietnamese Girl); Phuong Sai Gon (Saigon Phoenix), which has recently appeared on Charming Vietnam 18 in Singapore; and (Suc song) Vitality.

Vo Viet Chung said he was confident these collections would impress. “I know I will appear on Fashion TV not only as an individual designer, but also to represent Vietnamese fashion and people. So I won’t miss any opportunity to promote my home country’s image, culture and people.

“I want the world to know more about Vietnam. I want to affirm that Vietnamese fashion has its own place in the international fashion world,” said he. Vo Viet Chung will certainly have a great opportunity to introduce Vietnam to international viewers during the three-part programme.

Part 1 will feature an interview with Vo Viet Chung and the young designer at work. In Part 2 and Part 3, various collections will be showcased. The film team arrived yesterday afternoon in HCM City for a three-day shoot.

Vo Viet Chung’s ao dais will be worn by leading domestic models as well as an international one, Laury Prudent, from Miami, the US. Asked what made her want to take part in the programe, Laury Prudent said she had long been captivated by the grace of the Vietnamese traditional dress.

“So knowing that I would have a chance to wear ao dais, I decided to accept the offer without hesitation,” said he.

(Source: LD, NLD)

Vietnamese ao dai to be on Fashion TV in October
16:57′ 09/10/2007 (GMT+7)

Ao dai designed by Vo Viet Chung

VietNamNet Bridge – Fashion TV will begin to introduce three collections of Vietnamese ao dai by Vietnamese designer Vo Viet Chung as of October 9.


Fasion TV shot the three collections of ao dai, namely Co ba xu Viet (Miss Ba), Phuong Saigon, and Huyen thoai phuong Dong (Oriental Legend) in September in HCM City.


The show introducing those collections will be aired in October, 6-10 times a day.


After that, this fashion channel will continue to broadcast video clips on designer Vo Viet Chung and his activities in the fields of fashion.


(Source: Nguoi Lao Dong)

Vietnamese collection to star on fashion TV channel


Timeless fashion: A Vietnamese model strolls on the fTV catwalk to show off the ao dai to international audiences. — VNS Photo

Young designer Vo Viet Chung’s collection of traditional Vietnamese satin will be on the catwalk early next month on Fashion TV (fTV), an international TV channel.

Titled Co Ba Xu Viet (Ms Ba from Viet Country), the collection features Vietnamese ao dai (traditional dress) made from My A satins, high-quality materials produced only in the Cuu Long (Mekong) province of An Giang that have been popular in Viet Nam for hundreds of years.

Chung, the first Vietnamese designer invited to show his work on fTV, is one of Viet Nam’s most popular fashion designers, known in both Viet Nam and abroad for designs that are infused with national identity.

The most outstanding feature of his collections is the harmonious combination between the modern, youthful style and traditional beauty to enhance the elegance and charm of those who wear them.

The production crew of fTV arrived in HCM City on Tuesday to work with Chung for the show, which will include an interview with the designer.

“I’m both surprised and happy that my collection will be introduced on fTV,” the 32-year-old said.

Before Chung’s collection was selected, several ranking officials from fTV had spent time studying the Vietnamese fashion industry and local young designers.

“With my collection to be shown on fTV, I believe that Vietnamese fashion will soon have a place in international fashion circles,” Chung said.

Chung’s Ms Ba from Viet Country collection will be displayed by well-known model and actress Laury Prudent from the US and several top Vietnamese models, including Chung Thuc Quyen, Kim Cuong and Binh Minh.

“I’m charmed by the beauty and elegance of ao dai,” Prudent said. ” I wanted to go to Viet Nam immediately when I was told I would wear ao dai for fTV featuring Chung’s collection,” she said.

Chung began his fashion career in 1995, designing costumes for the theatre at the Institute for Cultural Exchange with France (IDECAF). In 1997, Chung won a top prize at Japan’s Makuhari Fashion Competition for Asian young designers.

The designer rose to fame after restoring My A satin and Tan Chau silk, two traditional Vietnamese materials made in Tan Chau craft village in An Giang.

Chung used the same fabrics for many of his collections which have been shown at fashion festivals in Viet Nam and in countries including Malaysia, China, Australia and New Zealand.

The designer was awarded the UNESCO insignia by the Viet Nam UNESCO Association last year for his efforts to preserve the rare traditional My A satin. — VNS