Saigon Kitsch probably found its ideal new owner when Audrey Tran picked up the business five years ago. Half French, half Vietnamese, this highly charismatic entrepreneur seems to exist in a permanent state of inspiration – and she’s spent much of the time since acquiring the store turning her flashes of brilliance into unique souvenirs for sale.
“Yes, I’m a very enthusiastic person,” she admits with a captivating grin, her irresistible French accent openly conveying her genuine passion for the work. “Every day I get some ideas, every day. I live with ideas. When I go out at night or in the afternoon, I’m always thinking about what I can create. Example, I make a poster, they sell good – so I think, why not do a candleholder with that? And now we sell these aussi.”
The bread and butter of the store comes from its propaganda art souvenirs, based on wartime artworks designed to inspire Vietnamese victory. To Audrey, they’ve proved a rich resource for original designs. “I created all of them,” she says. “The notebooks, the magnets, the folders for school, the pictures. Mouse pads. The tourists, they always want souvenirs from Vietnam – but they want something special – things that reflect something from here. Other stores have lots of souvenirs, but not “like mine.”
With plans to take over the first floor of the shop’s location on Ton That Thiep, Audrey is now faced with doubling her product range – a task that is obviously an exciting prospect. “I love it, she says. “It’s not just for selling and getting the money; you have to love what you do. Like these coasters,” she points randomly, “these are great. We sell all of them.”
What’s especially interesting is that Audrey has no particular background in design. “I just can’t stop,” she says. “I’m not talented, I didn’t go to school for design. But this is all from my ideas.”
Oi’s Pick: Buddha-shaped candles in 11 colors (VND 160,000)
Offering both enlightenment and lighting for your mind and home, the candles are a good reminder to enjoy some meditative time for yourself.
43 Ton That Thiep, D1