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Nordic design, Việt Nam style

Update: June, 23/2016 - 09:00
Flexible cotton: A design by Louise Bach Mogensen.
Viet Nam News

By Lê Hương

HÀ NỘI — Among the hundreds of tailor shops in the ancient town of Hội An, O-Thala is a new brand that was launched in December last year.

The brand is the brainchild of an expat from Denmark, designer Louise Bach Mogensen.

O-Thala is the last letter of the old Nordic runes. Mogensen used the name to indicate the European origin of her creations.

“The reason I used it is that I like the meaning of it,” she said. “These days, we talk about finding ourselves, we travel the world, we travel in our own inner universe with the goal of finding ourselves.

“O-Thala symbolises this journey. It is our starting point, the journey and our ending point. The past and the future in one.

“For me, being from Denmark, I grew up with the old Nordic runes and folklore. Yet, it took me having to travel all the way to Việt Nam before I could view my Scandinavian heritage in an appreciative light.

“Today, I am still living in Việt Nam, and in some strange way, Việt Nam is now part of my heritage,” she said.

“I love Vietnamese food very much,” she said. “My favourites include cao lầu (noodles with pork and vegetables), bún chả (rice vermicelli served with grilled pork) and anything stirred in fat with citronella and chilly.”

Mogensen says Việt Nam had been a long-term fascination for her, and in her early twenties, some 17 years ago, she decided to move here.

Places like Hội An in the central province of Quảng Nam, where everyone knows each other, have inspired her ever since.

“The saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is true in Hội An,” she said.

Mogensen said she took inspiration from many natural things, including water and waves. She often uses sparkling beads on shirts and dresses to reflect drops of water running down glass and waves catching the hem of a dress.

She has also applied various decorative patterns created by Danish graphic designer Bjorn Wiinblad.

“He is famous for drawing the poster for Tivoli garden, and he always utilises Oriental inspiration,” she said.

Mogensen is also greatly inspired by Vietnamese áo dài (the traditional long dress) and Chinese Qipao.

“It’s super elegant and flattering for the female shape,” she said.

Mogensen uses flexible cotton cloth for her designs inspired from áo dài so that they can be worn for both formal and casual occasions. She also shortens the outfit to make it suitable for daily wear, which she calls “urban áo dài”.

“She always comes up with many new ideas for innovative features that make the final product special,” Võ Thanh Tú, tailor and cutter at the O-Thala shop, said.

Echoing this opinion, Lê Thị Thanh Thúy, who works as an embroiderer at the shop, said Mogensen creates distinguished products.

“I like all of her creations,” Thúy said. “While working with her, I have learnt a lot.”

“I’m absolutely amazed by my team’s skills,” Mogensen said. “What I really like about them is the fact that they were taught by their families, not in school. So it’s a really unique quality that they bring to the table.”

She said her biggest problem was gaining access to high-quality fabrics. She has to order materials from other regions, such as Bảo Lộc in the Central Highland province of Lâm Đồng, and must travel often to discover new, interesting fabrics.

She plans to test the Scandinavian market early next year. — VNS


New ideas: A design by Louise Bach Mogensen. Courtesy Photos of O-Thala
Fascinated with VN: Designer Louise Bach Mogensen (centre, sitting) and her friends pose for a photo at O-Thala shop in downtown Hội An. Photo from Facebook of O-Thala


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