Brb opening a streetwear store in Hanoi
Since I was a kid I had always taken an interest in brands and the clothes I was wearing, even if I look back at old pics and cringe nowadays. I ended up choosing a uni course based on employment opportunities and salary, but it was never really my cup of tea; I wanted to do something creative. I followed through with the course and found a job right after graduation, working for an engineering company in the Netherlands. I worked that job for three and a half years and whilst is wasn’t terrible.. I wasn’t satisfied. During those years, I found myself with a lot of spare time in front of the laptop and I took my interest in clothing to the next level, religiously following the latest trends in streetwear.
I spent a lot of time in the Basement, for news, buying/selling, just to keep up to date with British culture, music, whatever… since I was living abroad. I also made a bit of money in the resell game and got the idea to open a store where I actually wanted to shop myself. It started off with wanting to buy/sell Japanese brands, since options are limited in the UK/EU. I had a lot of savings from the job but still not enough to open a retail space in a European city. My attention turned to Hanoi since I’d been there a few times, having some close Vietnamese friends, and had failed to find any decent streetwear shops. So I did a bit of research and found out it would be difficult but ultimately possible to open a shop over here on my budget.
After saving up until I thought I was ready, I quit my job and thats how I ended up here! There have been so many obstacles and some still ongoing. It’s not actually possible for a foreigner to own a business here unless they are investing a sum way over my budget, so I need a Vietnamese partner to help me with any sort of admin. Also applying for a permit to live and work here legally is a nightmare..I’ve been working on it for the last 4 months and only now am I finally ready to apply. So yeah, mainly admin issues, besides the language barrier which I’m also working on.
I don’t actually feel like I’m importing Western culture. Vietnam is pretty well connected to trends and what’s going on abroad. You can see it with all the stores selling cheap Yeezy knock offs; my shop is just another place to buy streetwear, except there is a focus on quality and genuine brands which IS rare here.
Being a foreigner here has definitely been more of a hindrance in terms of getting the shop up and running. However, many people online are interested in me and my store since its something new for them. When locals see a foreigner here they immediately assume they are either a backpacker or an english teacher; so when I’m posting online about opening a clothing shop people take notice. In terms of contacting suppliers, most of them are based in Korea. It was difficult to secure any at all, I think for 2 reasons, either they don’t speak English very well or they are already happy stocking local stores without the headaches of international accounts.
In the future I am hoping to stock trainers.. I would like a Vans Vault account since many of my followers found me through sneaker groups and are always asking me about that. Also, I wear Vans almost every day, so they’re a big part of my own personal style.
My goals for the next 5 years? To be shipping worldwide, have a big catalogue of brands that I love personally and to also have another branch in Ho Chi Minh City (and maybe another abroad, somewhere else in SE Asia.)
To me the Basement was my main inspiration for quitting my day job and starting this venture, if I hadn’t found the group I wouldn’t be here now for sure. It’s also my link back to the UK.. so even when I’m miles away I can always keep up with what’s going on and not lose sight of my roots.
If you ever find yourself in Hanoi, drop in and say Hi – the address is AOKAIË Clothing, 110 Yên Hoa, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội, Việt Nam.
Words and photos by Jay Wild