Those who love high-end handmade goods in Vietnam must have their hats off to Leinné. This premium brand of hats and sedge bags is the brainchild of Mimi Minh Nguyen (Hai Minh). Growing up in a family with a sedge factory for big exotic brands, Mini Minh Nguyen more or less has a special affection for high-quality crafts. Later, she went to France and pursued her career in Fashion Design. After that, she returned to her home country and started to build Leinné with the experience she had accumulated and inherited from family’s crafting quintessence. Let’s find out what is the uniqueness of Leinné with Defuze Magazine.
Could you tell us a bit about your inception and what was the main idea behind the brand?
It’s been more than 5 years since I had an idea to start a brand based on my love for natural materials and craftsmanship. The ideas were constructed during the last 6 months of 2016 in Paris and brought to Vietnam in December that year on the foundation of a 20-year-old family-owned artisanal hat-making workshop.
The main idea behind our brand is sustainability with a theme of harmony with nature and the delight of the senses. We aim to improve the lives of the local artisans and develop sustainable practice through craftsmanship and materials that tell the story of Vietnam.
Leinné is a combination of two words from two different languages. What does it represent to you?
“Leinné” is the combination of the English word “leisure” and the French word “inné”, a passion for living, a desire to see the world with courage, passion and intuitiveness. The brand carries a multi-cultural background and a passion for living and is enriched by different cultures.
How do the various cultures harmoniously coexist and intertwine at Leinné designs?
The design plays a very important role. Leinné team studies carefully to combine contemporary trends, versatility and the story behind the design to create a balance point that follows the “Parisian” style, which is easily incorporated in different styles so everyone can find the designs that best suit their personality.
Vietnamese people are generally observed as adaptable and hardworking. They have been influenced not only by traditional culture but also by the quintessence of global culture throughout generations. We convey this essence in our brand’s poetry to create balance between beauty, sustainability, and craftsmanship.
Why is sustainability important to you? With the fashion industry being one of the most polluting industries, what future do you see ahead of you for the industry?
I believe sustainable fashion is the future of the fashion industry. The COVID-19 outbreak has had unprecedented impacts on the global economy, creating revolutionary changes for the fashion industry worldwide and in Vietnam. The pandemic makes people realize they do not live in an age of abundance, and it is time to strive towards sustainability when resources are becoming limited.
Having to stay home most of the time, consumers tend to choose minimalist clothes, which both save costs and contribute to environmental protection. They shop less but with more quality, especially with Generation Z and millennials. While previous generations opt for designer goods based on the brand’s traditional craftsmanship and longtime heritage, millennials and Generation Z demand sustainability and ethical fashion. A 2015 Nielsen report found that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products. And Forbes said in its 2019 report that 62% of Generation Z preferred sustainable brands.
And as consumers’ interest shifts from products that can be quickly discarded to products with long-lasting vitality, artisanal fashion is the ideal choice. It contributes to bringing a positive change to the environment, reducing waste, promoting liberation from limitations compared to traditional production processes.
How do you think a fashion brand can be successful commercially while being sustainable?
An interesting question. The conventional marketing model focuses on “volume” of sales and assumes that manual work is inefficient in terms of revenue. For a balanced business, it is necessary to have a profound understanding of the customers and the brand itself in order to bring the best values to customers, the company and the community.
At the same time, customers need to understand their choices. The Internet plays a useful role in conveying information to customers, which brands could only do through word of mouth or traditional marketing methods in the past.
What sort of materials and color palates are you most interested in using and why?
As an eco-luxury brand, Leinné always uses sustainable natural materials. Our signature material is raffia, a type of yarn from Africa that is UV resistant, anti-damp, very flexible and can be hand washed.
With respect for traditional craftsmanship, Leinné also seeks out the finest fabrics from craft villages across Vietnam. Hand-knitted silks, linens and pure cotton fabrics are finely selected, dyed with botanical colors and selected ingredients to ensure no adverse impact on the environment.
In addition, we use upcycled materials from the Refinity program. We are also working on developing new sustainable materials.
We have 4 signature colors that represent the spirit of Leinné: Leinné Sand, Midnight Blue, Modern Grey and Cream. The colors are inspired by nature and faraway lands. They reflect the spirit of our brand: The harmony of the senses, sustainability lifestyle and experience enriched by culture.
Do you have a favorite piece from your creations?
Each design and collection is the brainchild of the whole Leinné team with so much dedication, so I love all designs equally. We are always doing our best to constantly improve, so that each design that reaches our customers fully contains the brand spirit and becomes their companion in life’s experiences.
Recently, we are launching the Formscape collection, featuring our limited edition designs. Formscape explores the endless possibilities of “landscape” and “forms”: the shapes created by nature. Inspired by artwork of William Russell Flint, the pieces of Formscape are designed and crafted to evoke the harmony of the senses and beauty of the shapes formed by nature: mountain, river flow, sky and sea.
This collection reflects the quintessence of Leinné, from pure craftsmanship to the inspiration of nature harmony. Every design from Formscape is entirely made by hand, which takes an average of 40 hours to be crafted. Therefore, our launching timeline of Formscape is revealing one item at a time, one after another.
How has the Covid situation affected your brand and how have you managed to sustain? What are the most important lessons you have learned in the process?
In difficulties there are always opportunities and vice versa. This crisis is a test of a brand’s strategies, since crisis leads to scarcity in everything, making the traditional business models (with emphasis on quantity) and the luxury business model (with emphasis on scarcity) almost the same.
One important point to note is that handcrafted items themselves are not something that could trigger intense desire to own. And Vietnam is not home to luxury fashion like the Western countries. That’s why we find it necessary to have the right approach to made-in-Vietnam designs. Vietnam should not be evaluated as an alternative for China but should be known for its original creativity, persistence and meticulousness, with a good story from the designs.
Do you foresee any big changes in the industry in the post-Covid world?
Sustainable fashion, which has been seen as a trend of the future for many years, will continue to thrive. Sustainability in fashion is not just about eco-friendly materials. It is also about humanity in treating people who have made the product, long-term engagement with customers and creating values for the community.
Transparency is also a factor that enhances the sustainability of the brand, as consumers increasingly demand to know the origin of the products. With the development of the Internet and digital tools, along with the generation of Z generation customers and millennials growing up in the digital age, this need increasingly needs to be recognized.
What lies ahead for Leinné?
After four years of small-scale experience, we have had a better understanding of our customers. In the near future, we are going to develop with depth. Our company is also planning to launch new brands to bring handmade fashion to a wider range of customers. The Internet plays a very useful role in transmitting information, so communication and technology platforms are also in our development plan.
The company in Vietnam that Leinné belongs to recently changed its name from Dan Long to Artisanal Fashion Company. This marks a milestone in the journey of more than 20 years of development as a production company and 3 generations in the hat business. The renaming is a part of our efforts to restructure our vertical integration fields manufacturing, wholesale and retail, with our CD and co-founder, Ms Mimi Minh Nguyen being appointed as chief executive officer.