With its mix of high-end designer finds and local handicrafts, this city is a shopper’s paradise. Story and photographs by BETSY LOWTHER
Published on May 21, 2010
Local haute handbag queen Christina Yu has earned a worldwide following for her whimsical, colorful totes and purses (they’ve even been scooped up by stylish celebrities like Cate Blanchett). This boutique offers her most up-to-date designs in a glittery, hot pink–hued setting. The top floor also stocks an exclusive range of gorgeous, modern clothing from mirrormirror, a line by Hanoi-based designer Ha Truong.
85 Pasteur Street; +84 8 824 2701; www.ipa-nima.com
+ MINH KHOA
Women from all over Asia flock to this charming shop for exquisite cocktail and formal dresses by designer Minh Khoa. The flattering, ultra-feminine designs come in a rainbow of colors and are stocked alongside a range of stylish shoes that go up to size 42. Minh will also work with clients to custom-make pieces for any special occasion.
39 Dong Khoi Street; 84-8/823-2302
+ NGUYEN FRERES
Located near the end of Dong Khoi Street, this large, slightly dusty shop has a lovely selection of handcrafted décor items, ethnic clothing, antique furniture and other traditional finds. Though its appearance may be less polished than other stores in the area, there are plenty of great finds to uncover here if you take the time.
2 Dong Khoi Street; +84 8 823 9459
+ PURI CHORI
This charming little boutique offers a fresh take on trendy clothing and accessories thanks to its locally based Japanese designer. The wide mix of bold patterns, precise detailing and well-tailored shapes has a chic yet breezy style that mixes Tokyo’s quirky-cool feel with Vietnam’s laidback vibe. The funky selection of hats just might be your most stylish option for protection against the strong Southeast Asian sun.
73 Pasteur Street; +84 8 824 8274
Table after table of colorful ceramics, local textiles and plenty of other fun finds—all at unbelievably inexpensive prices— practically guarantees you won’t exit this airy emporium empty-handed. Located in the heart of busy Dong Khoi Street, the city’s main hub of tourist shops, this is one boutique that shouldn’t be skipped. The low prices and wide selection make this store an easy one-stop shop for gifts.
6 Dong Khoi Street; +84 8 823 8811
+ BEN THANH MARKET
It’s a rite of passage for visitors to Ho Chi Minh City to stop by this bustling, cavernous market, where everything from toothpaste to handbags is up for sale. The best spot for souvenirs is on the market’s western side (look for stall numbers in the 800’s), a great place to pick up colorful bamboo bowls, woven baskets and other local knickknacks. Bargain hard before you buy—most shopkeepers will first cite outrageously high prices before quickly dropping the cost.
Le Loi Street
This sleek, upscale designer showroom offers a distinctive mix of unique merchandise, all created by international designers living in the region. The selection includes inventive home pieces done in traditional Vietnamese lacquerware from Michele de Albert and modern rattan furniture from Lawson Johnston. A second-floor clothing boutique features a gorgeous range of colorful designs from Paris-trained Cambodian designer Romyda Keth.
39 Ton That Thiep Street; +84 8 914 3769; www.gayavietnam.com
+ LIFE IMPRESSION
In a city brimming with lacquerware, this small boutique stands out for its wide range of colors and high quality. The candy-colored housewares—from soupspoons to serving bowl sets—are a great alternative to the more traditional hues you’ll find elsewhere. If you like what you see, don’t miss the sister shop, Le Monde (91 Le Thanh Ton Street), which stocks a slightly different range.
47 Ton That Thiep Street; +84 8 821 4521; www.lemondedecor.com
+ SAIGON KITSCH
This ultra-bright boutique has taken traditional Vietnamese propaganda and transformed it into pop art. Look for neon-hued interpretations of everything from the Vietnam flag to Communist banners on notebooks, notepads, mouse pads, coffee mugs and more. Upstairs, the somewhat more subdued Dogma offers authentic propaganda posters for sale.
43 Ton That Thiep; +84 8 821 8019; www.saigonkitsch.com