Life Life

05/01/2023 - 14:18

Fashion from carved wood 

Wooden dragon shoes, rings, bracelets, necklaces... are the fashion lines of Fashion4Freedom (F4F) - a social enterprise in Hue City in the sphere of non-profit activities. It is not widely known that this hard material makes hundreds of high-class fashion works present on 4 continents worldwide.

Wood products colored

With the goal of "redefining luxury", F4F members strive to honor the value of artisans who create the product to change the outlook of society on this fiercely competitive fashion industry.

Exquisite artwork

More than 10 years back, Lan Vy Nguyen, founder of F4F, back home, silently contemplated Hue artisans’ crafting skills on wood. “It is an exquisite artwork. I desire to turn that into a high-end fashion line that gets their owners to admire and cherish", Vy said about the reason for the birth of the first brainchild.

Dragon shoes appeared and enjoyed resounding successes: winning awards, being welcomed at some international exhibitions… F4F was more excited to develop other high-end products. In 2015, carved wood jewelry was born, creating more jobs and contributing to maintaining the traditional craft villages.

Mr. Do Van Thanh over 40, specializing in woodcarving, in charge of the "forming" stage has stuck with this job for nearly 10 years. The years of learning to reconstruct rường house (a type of traditional architecture in Hue) offered him valuable experience in incorporating traditional culture into fashion.

From raw Sapele veneer wood, the talented craftsmen use 40 chisels to create countless trimming lines, and carve vivid and delicate images that match the user's body parts, making a foreign customer exclaim, “Unbelievable ingenuity”!

The hardest is shaping a phoenix on shoes and necklaces. Drawing, sawing, forming, and chiseling alone take 6 days.

“More than 50 details need attentiveness and meticulosity, so sometimes I spend a whole week making just one sample for F4F. I just hope that its owner enjoys and loves it," confided Thanh.

Upon watching the photos of fashion shows sent back from the US, he felt the special beauty of wood and the delicacy of his products. Deep in his heart, he inwardly thanked F4F's fashion for taking him back to Hue after years of earning a living abroad. Moreover, he had the opportunity to preserve and promote the once-glorious woodcarving craft of his forebears.

Beauty is added to wood fashion by painter Tran Thi Thanh Dung, a lecturer at Hue University of Arts, who is noted for the woodcarvings. She uses many layers of acrylic colors on top of each other to decorate the product. Surprisingly enough, after coating any details, she puts those in the drawer and keeps them like the apple of her eye for a very simple reason: "Each curve Mr. Thanh carves is too exquisite; I have to make it more beautiful and eye-catching. If it is chipped, those involved in this product have to start all over again."

Past - future bridge

In late 2022, receiving a hand-carved Hummingbird necklace, Catherine J, a customer from France, sent emotional lines, “I think this is a rare, quite special product nowadays. It is not always possible to distinguish handmade products from mass-produced goods. I look forward to witnessing more achievements. The product deserves to be encouraged to develop.”

A lacquer dragon-carved bracelet

According to F4F, foreign customers who love wood fashion are usually people of individuality. Customers from Europe prefer unpainted wood jewelry to clearly see the wood grain, so this product is sprayed with a thin PU layer to protect and highlight the wood grain. Americans prefer wood painted in color especially lacquer. Art-loving customers are also particularly fond of wood jewelry, most of which comes from China.

If ordering wooden jewelry, customers are updated with product progress and other information if problems arise. “It is well worth a wait. You will be amazed to hold them (fashion models) in your hand,” commented customer Kwinebrenner.

Custom-made dragon shoes

Strange to say, this fashion line does not have a label of origin. “Fashion is not only a commodity but also an art. Each product has the cooperation of many craftsmen and craft villages in Vietnam, largely in Hue craft villages, so it is not easy to copy. The reputation, awards, and community have confirmed this brand," said Le Thi Chau Quynh, co-founder and executive officer of F4F in Hue.

Dung Yoko, Creative Director of International Magazine, pays special attention to the above-mentioned wood fashion segment. He said, "Vietnam's cultural heritage is beautiful and delicate. If properly exploited, it will produce very beautiful and trending fashion products. The colors and wood designs of F4F get me to think that creativity is always the bridge between the past and the future to create art and fashion products with Vietnamese soul.

Wood fashion from Hue was present at the Event honoring handicrafts in Phoenix, Arizona (USA), exhibited at Shanghai Fashion Week (China), the international shoe exhibition at Victoria Museum and Albert – London (England)…

Anna Jackson, Curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum commented upon receiving the product, “They exquisitely showcase the unique carving and lacquering techniques typical of the region.”

Mr. Do Van Thanh did not know that his name was respectfully placed by the Victoria and Albert Museum under the search category on the website as a recognition of his talent. Below the product design introduced on the international online sales channel, viewers will see the image of a craftsman carving, measuring, drawing, chiseling, etc. All of this is not beyond the goal of honoring the artisans of the craft village and creating a bridge so that each "click" of the mouse will lead customers to discover a Hue - Vietnam culture imbued with identity.

A painted carved phoenix-shaped strap

A model with fashion products from carved wood

“Usually the designer chooses the material, but in this case, the material (wood) chooses the designer. Wood is both like a perfect man (tough, strong) and like a woman (supple, resistant). The designer's job is to show the beauty and power hidden in it," said Lan Vy Nguyen, Founder of F4F.

Story: Tue Ninh

Photos: Giang Thao