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A Vietnamese Adventure: PART 1

After a fairly leisurely morning spent at Laura’s house, Ali, Sophie and I set off on our eagerly anticipated journey to visit Just Trade’s new Vietnamese-based producers for a week of meetings, design development and learning about the production processes used within the organisation. On our arrival in Hanoi, we were greeted by the lovely Hoai and her husband, Diep, who started their social enterprise textile business back in 2003 in order to give disadvantaged people opportunities and support to improve their lives through secure work, further training and healthy working conditions. As a Fair Trade Federation member with the World Fair Trade Organisation, their mission is to produce ethically made fashion products under Fair Trade conditions and we’re really excited to be working with them!

The brilliant Hoai and Diep...

Having only previously met some of the team on a Skype tour of the production unit, we were really surprised to learn just how many people in the area are employed by Hoai and Diep. Not only are there office staff, the main production team and people working on samples, in quality control or in the warehouse, they also work with around one hundred more artisans from the surrounding areas of Hanoi!

The ladies from the office, the production team and the warehouse boys...

As is Just Trade tradition, we brought presents from one of our producer groups in Ecuador for the team in Hanoi which this time, were our tagua nut penguin brooches and they seemed to go down a treat!

Our main base for the week was the production unit in the city and from there we made trips out to see the smaller craft groups that Hoai and her team work in collaboration with. We like to think that we started each day bright and early but soon discovered that by the time we arrived every morning, all the employees had already completed their morning yoga session – something we were pretty sad to have missed out on! The main focus of the Hanoi production site centres on the stitching and assembly of goods with a small area also dedicated to sample making. This was especially interesting for me to see as I often do our initial working drawings so it was great to see the ladies known as ‘Masters’ bringing these drawings to life!

As mentioned, not all of the work that goes into making a complete product takes place within the production unit with Hoai and Diep often utilising the skills of smaller artisan groups working both in the city and in smaller, provincial villages around Hanoi. Our first trip out took us to see where the embroidery magic happens and as can be seen in the photos, they were working hard on our ‘floats and boats’ design! The majority of the embroidery work is computerised and although this takes time and a great deal of skill to initially set up, it means designs can then be produced quickly and in quantity.

The CAD embroidery machines in action...

Once back at the production unit, the finishing touches are hand embroidered onto the fabric before it becomes part of the finished product...


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