This young, energetic outfit offers a painless way to get your dream T-shirts made. By Lorcan Lovett. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Buzzing away on the first floor of a building off the wide boulevard of Nguyen Hue is a vibrant example of how young Vietnamese city dwellers are choosing to express themselves in the age of Frappuccinos and Facebook.
It’s home to clothes shop The Maker and, separately, custom T-shirt designers Aothun (meaning T-shirt in Vietnamese) whose staff chat, click at screens and press buttons on machines amid a pile of fabric.
If you’re having trouble finding your size, or want a change from the generic T-shirts bouncing around town, Aothun is worth a visit.
33-year-old Truong Tran set up the company in 2009, stretching its online-only presence to include this shop in October.
I direct questions to his employee Phuong Nguyen, 22, who then looks over her shoulder, fishing for an answer from her colleagues before looking at her boss in a last ditch attempt.
Truong gently lays a cotton T-shirt down on a heat press machine and looks up. Yes, they import the material – from India. They churn out 30 to 50 shirts a day for a colourful spectrum of customers including stag-dos, art students, fashion savvy folk and people who want to wear their idols’ images or trademarks.
“We have many customers and almost all of them are funny guys”, says Phuong, sporting a ‘Pray for Paris’ top, Eiffel Tower included. It’s strange to think that this T-shirt, designed by Aothun in an instinctive reaction to the attacks, may be ‘retro’ one day.
But this is part of the appeal, Aothun acts quickly. Its six shop workers sparked a high demand and then grafted frantically after posting the tribute tops for VND 149,000 on social media just after the atrocity.
On Black Friday the shop offered a 42 percent discount, referencing the number of their building, and again keeping their finger firmly on the pulse.
Customers reap the rewards of their speedy ethos with a five to 15 minute waiting time as soon as they send the design via email.
Our photographer Vinh seized the opportunity to print a couple of logos from obscure 90s grunge bands, taking photos and then waiting a few more minutes for his T-shirts, which he praised for their comfort.
Custom T-shirts cost VND 275,000 each, readily designed prints VND 200,000 and VND 145,000 for a plain T-shirt. Orders of five or more are discounted.
There is a choice of polyester, cotton or a mix of the two, and sizes start from XS and reach XXXL in-store plus up to XXXXXL on request.
Its website still maintains a wide range of stock incase a customer wishes to check pre-designed T-shirts before committing to their own.
I spotted the dubiously phrased ‘It Smooth Sea Never Made A Skilled Sailor’ when scrolling through and in the shop Phuong points to their best-seller: a large, smug cat in a pink circle saying in Vietnamese something along the lines of ‘fat is cute, right?’
I feel a sudden pang of depression and turn away, only to see a lurid pair of ‘His and Hers since 11/03/14’ or whatever your date may be. Alternatively you can throw up and then design your own, which is Aothun’s unique draw.
“We will expand in the future”, says Phuong, whose employer hopes to own his own factory and farm in Vietnam. “We will have many shops. We want to bring shirts from Vietnam to Vietnamese people”.