In a room near the stairs on the second floor above the traffic on Pasteur, there is a man describing the cuff links he wants to have made to a young salesgirl. It is a small boutique called Made by Mun (Room 201, Second Floor, 130 Pasteur, D1); half the walls display women’s fashion, and half are draped in necklaces, charms, rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and other pieces for decorating the body. Splitting the store in two is a shining floor-to-ceiling steel pole. Next to the salesgirl stands a piano teacher, a banker, a pole dancer and a jewelry maker. This would be a crowded house if it weren’t for the fact that the banker, piano teacher, pole dancer and jewelry maker were one person.
Doan Le Thao Vy has always had more than one job. She also clearly has more than one passion. The constant is the piano: it has always been at the center of her life, and teaching takes up the bulk of her mornings and afternoons. Banking is in the past and fading ever faster. Between the piano lessons she’s designing, cutting, carving and hammering precious metals into one-of-a-kind pieces.
Seven years ago, in a friend’s jewelry store, Vy was allowed to sit in a corner and explore. She was given pieces of copper and bronze. Left alone, she learned how to cut, create and take an idea and translate it from paper to bronze. Her first piece took more than a month to create. Fast forward to 2014. After years of wearing and not selling her own pieces, Vy caved in and opened her store selling bespoke pieces. She quickly became known as someone happy to work with a customer in creating their own design. “What I enjoy most is being a part of someone’s story. I have made many wedding rings where the man comes in without even knowing the size of his girlfriend’s ring finger. Or even worse, he has bought a ring double the size of her finger. He needs the ring in three days, and it has to have an inscription in it, maybe also some special pattern or drawing. He is starting to panic a little. So I suggest a few ways to measure her finger without her suspecting anything, or I transform the huge ring down to her size – most stores would refuse to do this – and then we work on how the ring should look and what he wants it to say. It’s a challenge to do all this very quickly, but it seems a lot of men tend to wait until the last minute to make up their minds. I love the challenge!”
“I recently had to draw the outline of a mountainscape along with a special message for a man who was going to give the ring to his girlfriend when they had climbed up to where she could see the same mountains that were on the inside of the ring,” Vy adds. “I liked this idea very much and it made me happy to be a part of it – to know that my ring was traveling up the mountain secretly, to be given to her at a specific place, a specific moment.”
The store suddenly fills up with a mix of Vietnamese and Korean women, arriving separately. They are all timid at first, but only at first. Soon they are trying on various pieces, and then trying on dresses that go with the various pieces. Vy moves in between both groups, taking ideas and orders.