Blue Dragon would probably be just another souvenir store if it weren’t for the perfect marriage right at its core. Any couple would find inspiration in Binh and Lisa’s easy affection for each other, but it’s in their family business that their respective backgrounds and skills find a perfect accord.
“When Binh was growing up here,” says Lisa, “You had to use what you had. When you needed something, you had to repurpose, repair, and make things out of nothing. I have more of an arts & crafts background – although I grew up in a small family business, so that’s in my blood. When I was traveling here, I couldn’t switch off my retail eyes – I was always thinking ‘that would be fabulous back in New York.’” She ended up sourcing Vietnamese handicrafts for export, which in turn led her to her husband, who founded the first ethnic crafts shop on De Tham in the early 1990s.
The couple are very hands-on when it comes to their unique recycled collectible products, sitting and working together to experiment with how the various materials respond to cutting, sewing, twisting, weaving, and blending with other materials. “Vietnam is a great place to do this,” says Lisa. “There’s lots of production waste; lots of primary production that goes on here. I use the term recycled, but that can mean a number of things. We ‘upcycle’ – we take something and repurpose it in its original state. It’s not reprocessed. We capture whatever substances and energies went into it first without it having to go back into the trash.”
Blue Dragon’s house designs (paper ornaments made of old discarded magazines, satchels patched together from animal feed sacks, and so on) serve as a reminder of the potential to recycle and reuse. All unique, there are innate variations in the recycled materials themselves, making each piece a one-and-only. Some designs are particularly innovative – the tire tube gadget bags, for instance, are an ideal tribute to the bike culture of Vietnam.
The couple keep their standards high, as the business is also engaged in exporting. “We’re very involved in knowing what the standards are in foreign markets,” says Lisa. “We’re careful to stick to high quality and good value.”
Oi’s Pick: Recycled paper frames (VND 200,000) and matching necklace (VND 110,000 -VND 145,000)
Discards and trash never looked more fabulous and chic.
1B Bui Vien, D1