SHOP TILL YOU DROP: HCM City is a hotspot for fashion, with many famous brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes, to highstreet Zara, H&M, Topshop and now Uniqlo. Photo nguoitieudung.com.vn
By An Phương
With the opening of Japanese fashion giant Uniqlo in HCM City, locals now have another shopping option for affordable clothing, but the new store could also pose a threat to the local fashion industry.
HCM City is the hotspot of fashion nationwide, with many famous fashion brands, from high-end houses Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes to fast-fashion firms Zara, H&M, Topshop and now Uniqlo.
Nowadays, we don’t have to travel abroad to hunt for what we want. Vibrant HCM City offers almost everything the global fashion industry has to give, I firmly believe.
My friends and I all agree that the much-anticipated opening of Uniqlo Việt Nam has made HCM City fashion scene even more colourful and competitive.
“I was among the first to queue outside Uniqlo Store when it launched in early December. The store did not disappoint me as Uniqlo offers a wide range of basic clothing to choose from, as well as their signature HEATTECH pieces!” my friend Mai Đặng, 23, said.
“The prices of basic clothing in Uniqlo are relatively cheap, compared to ones from local brands. While it costs about VNĐ200,000 for a V-neck shirt at Uniqlo, a customer has to pay VNĐ200,000 to 300,000 for a shirt at a local brand like Routine,” she added.
Ngọc Anh, 23, agreed with Mai, adding that she had collected quite a few items from Uniqlo and was very happy about them.
“I bought three shirts, a pair of pants, two dresses and some underwear pieces after a total of three visits to Uniqlo. Their fabrics are so soft and airy that I feel comfortable wearing them during sunny days in Sài Gòn,” she said.
“I don’t know whether or not I’m too obsessed with the brand but I only occasionally shop at local brands such as Ninomaxx and Blue Exchange now,” Ngọc Anh added.
Who wouldn’t enjoy the feeling of wandering around cooling shopping malls and conveniently picking up what they already have in mind? As much as I enjoy riding my bike, the hot weather often puts me in a bad mood.
Ngọc Anh’s brother, Duy Anh, 27, raised another view which I found to be very interesting.
“I’ve grown up with a social media feed very much inspired from South Korean and US cultures. It has gradually shaped my belief that wearing clothes from international fashion brands like Gap, Old Navy and H&M is the norm and that local clothing is only for the elder generation,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong as I’m not 'white-washed' or trying to prove I’m better than anyone. This is a real phenomenon that many young people are encountering, as least in my humble experience,” he added.
That said, I believe the local fashion scene is nowhere near danger. It’s just that local fashion firms need to take the industry more seriously and improve in all aspects because fierce competition, which is an inseparable part of all kinds of businesses, is coming it's way.
SUITS YOU SIR: A customer looks for a special T-shirt at the new Uniqlo Đồng Khởi, the Japanese fashion store in downtown HCM City. VNS Photo by Phương Mai
According to Lê Quang Hùng, former chairman of the board of directors of Sài Gòn Garment Manufacturing Trade Joint Stock Company, Việt Nam has an advantage in quality human resources but lacks design skills.
Many fashion firms in Việt Nam run their business by copying designs from international brands such as Hong Kong and Singapore, and then make some tweaks to fit Vietnamese locals.
“Currently, some local firms have stepped up their game, particularly Canifa, which has invested a lot in design, human resources and quality materials. The company has witnessed many positive results,” he said.
On a different note, Mai Đặng told me, except for basic items, she couldn’t deny that most clothing items produced by local brands are cheaper than ones from global brands.
“Take Zara, where I usually have to pay over VNĐ1 million for a dress, as an example. It costs me VNĐ600,000 for a similar dress if I were to buy it from Ivy Moda, a local fashion brand,” she said.
As I’m writing this piece, I’ve realised that my friends and I are quick to buy clothes from international brands and rarely have second thoughts as we love the brands, and we love all things that are “international”.
“I know I usually have to pay higher for the brand name, not exactly the quality of a certain piece of clothing, but I can’t help it. Brands like Zara and Uniqlo have interesting ways of talking about their brand identity that many people love,” Duy Anh said.
Even so, my friends and I believe it’s crucial for local fashion brands to take a step back, think of what they are good at, and invest in those aspects.
“Most Vietnamese consumers are not loyal to one brand, but have a tendency to change,” Hùng said.
We must seize the opportunity! VNS