Culture Culture

07/06/2017 - 10:22

Dragon Shoes

Appearing in various foreign magazines, exhibitions, fashion shows, as well as chosen by models…, Dragon shoes (Giay Rong) are available in 20 countries at $450 per pair. Yet, not many people know that this sophisticated handmade footwear originates from Hue.

Dragon shoes can be found under the brand name Wrong of Fashion4Freedom, a community business based in Hue. The creator of this unique item is Lan Vy Nguyen (an overseas Vietnamese and the founder of F4F).

Skillfully-engraved Dragon shoes

“My Dragon baby”

“My Dragon baby” is the phrase regularly and lovingly used by Lan Vy to describe Dragon shoes, as they are her own creation, carrying the spirit of her home land. Dragon shoes also mark the beginning of F4F in hopes that the product would help the local artisans find their way back to the market.

A model wearing Giay Rong and various accessories from Wrong.

“Though being at the hectic World Trade Center, I was yearning for the sound of  wooden clogs and the image of a revering ao dai of my grandma. A visit to a wood workshop in Hue, seeing the woodworkers carving dragons onto bell-stands, pillars, houses… sparked an idea from within me How about a pair of shoes with dragon-shaped soles?” Vy recalls.

From the design ideas, her colleagues went on to find materials and artisans in the villages around Hue for crafting. After 5 months of experimenting, the first pair of dragon shoes emerged, on a spring day of 2012. The first model to wear these peculiar dragon shoes in New York streets on snowy days is no other than the mother of dragon shoes, Lan Vy Nguyen. Since then, their Creative Director, Victoria Ho, has continued to support F4F in developing new designs branching out from the first pair of dragon shoes.

Dragon shoes are a work of art that combines Hue’s skilled woodworking and lacquer painting into the sophisticated carving of the soles. According to Mr. Do Van Thanh, a master of woodworking, each pair of shoes took over 20 days to finish, with the carving alone taking a week. The shoes must then be dried once more before they are ready for the next stage of production. After the woodworking of the sole, the painting process took some extra time. “The first layer of painting needs 24 hours to dry; and it takes more time and work to paint multiple layers to obtain the final colors before moving to the stage of leathering. Doing all that on a multiple-sided sole requires continuous rotations. Looking at these masterpieces, I believe, any owner would be in admiration,” the lacquer painter, Tran Xuan Minh, added.

Dragon shoes

Not just gorgeous.

In the eyes of fashion designers, dragon shoes are the fusion of fashion and culture, of traditionality and modernity. A pair of dragon shoes is also a personalized product as wearers can choose a certain design for their shoes from the collection. Since 2012, the price of the shoes has remained the same at $450 per pair. “It costs about 10 million VND just to ship a few pairs to a foreign country. The profit from the shoes isn’t low, but the expense on developmental investment is high. F4F keeps on making the shoes as they are the essence of the company and also help the local artisans get the reputation they deserve.

Making the sole

Most customers of dragon shoes are stylish foreigners with strong personalities. Some would still wait for a new design even though they have bought their 5th pairs. In Vietnam, dragon shoes have become a well-known gift of ambassadors, singers, actors, models in Hanoi as well as Ho Chi Minh city. Cool Hunting website (specialized in writing about peculiarities) had an article about dragon shoes, which was shared to over 160 countries. International television channels and fashion magazines mentioned the brand as a phenomenon from Vietnam. In Hue, F4F has plans to build an exhibition site in the future.

Lan Vy Nguyen once told her colleagues how proud she was of dragon shoes. To this modern woman, dragon shoes are not only an achievement in her personal life but they also bring the essence of Hue-Vietnam artistry to the world, arousing curiosity about the mysterious S-shaped land.

Author: Quynh Giang - Photo: Q.Giang - F4F