Vietnamese designer takes ao dai to the women of Japan

July 1, 2006

Tong Thi Kim Dinh (L)  

A Vietnamese woman has in the past 19 years worked hard to popularize the Vietnamese traditional dress ao dai in Japan, better known as the “Kingdom of Kimono.”

Born in 1961 in Vietnam’s former imperial capital of Hue, Tong Thi Kim Dinh left for Japan with her husband after graduating from the Hue University of Medicine in 1987.

While looking for work, Dinh attended a course on beautifying women in Tokyo and since then has nurtured her dream of making Japanese women even more beautiful with Vietnamese dress.

In 1997, Dinh opened Shop Vietnam in the Sumitomo Group’s 51-story building in the Shinuku center, one of the most bustling areas in Tokyo.

“At that time very few Japanese knew about Vietnam. Many gave a look of surprise at seeing my tiny shop there while some considered Vietnamese ao dai as an “odd fashion”,” Dinh recalled.

“At first I was sad, but determined to make ao dai popular among Japanese people.”

She later returned to the homeland, recruited skilled artisans and set up a workshop tailoring ao dai based on her own standards.

Dinh designed ao dai by herself, keeping in mind Japanese tastes for high quality fabric, design, colors and tailoring.

With customers wanting their orders in record time, Dinh had to devise measurements suitable to all Japanese women, and get them to come in for special fitting sessions to cut customer visits down to a minimum.

Great admiration

After a fashion show at the Vietnamese Music Festival in Tokyo in 2000, many newspapers and media agencies in Japan like NHK, TBS, Asahi, and Tokyo praised Dinh’s unique ao dai.

Ashi Karucha, an organization for Japanese women, last February invited Dinh to host a discussion specifically on Vietnamese ao dai.

Also in February last year, Shop Vietnam was invited to feature Vietnamese ao dai in the Asian Party Dress Fair, one of the large brand promotion programs by the Seibu Tokyo commercial center.

Now Shop Vietnam’s ao dai, known under the brand Sivini, are widely known in regions across Japan.

Japanese make up 90 percent of the shop’s clients while the remainders are Westerner tourists.

Japanese diva Anna Saeki is also one of Shop Vietnam’s regular clients. The famous singer has recently arrived in Ho Chi Minh City to film herself in the Vietnamese traditional dress ao dai for use in a campaign to make over her image next year.

She will use the pictures for a calendar and for the introduction of her new image in 2007, which marks 20 years of her career as a tango singer.

Source: Tuoi Tre – Translated by Thu Thuy


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