Sustainability: How a Vietnamese fashion designer redefines “natural” beauty

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Hai Minh’s Leinné fashion brand creates clothing and accessories made solely from natural and degradable materials, combining the two ideals the designer holds most dear: environmental protection and showcasing Vietnam’s storied artisan craftsmanship.

Hai Minh, also known as Mimi Vesper, often calls herself “Saigon born, London and Paris raised.”

From her boutique apartment in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, her small brand is making a big splash, producing clothing, hats, and accessories made from natural and degradable materials such as linen, cotton, and natural raffia, including a couture item which appeared on the cover of the Vietnamese edition of Harper’s Bazaar.

In the two years since she launched Leinné, she has accrued a loyal following of customers who share her passion for practicing a green, sustainable lifestyle.

<em>Hai Minh with a raffia and cotton Leinné bag. Photo:</em> Supplied
Hai Minh with a raffia and cotton Leinné bag. Photo: Supplied

Establishing style through travel

“I believe that my taste was shaped by my travel experience,” Minh said, adding that seeing the world has helped her recognize what she truly appreciates in fashion and only “focus on the necessary features.”

When she was 15, Minh left Vietnam to attend high school in London, her first time living abroad.

After graduating, she moved to Paris to pursue her studies in the creative sector.

“France had a different style which was more relaxed,” she said.

“I love the creative energy in Paris. There is something about the city that encourages others to be more creative, active, and free.”

During her time in Paris, Minh not only studied fashion design, but also advertising, promotion, and branding – key factors behind her success in developing her own brand.

After finishing school in 2016, the woman continued living in France until her parents decided to close down the family’s 20-year-old artisan business, which mainly manufactured crafted goods for foreign businesses.

This prompted the young fashion designer to return to Vietnam and create her own fashion brand.

<em>Hai Minh poses in a Leinné outfit and a hat made of sustainable materials. Photo:</em> Supplied
Hai Minh poses in a Leinné outfit and a hat made of sustainable materials. Photo: Supplied

A sustainable brand

Having spent over ten years visiting several countries, Minh is well versed in sustainable living, a theme she hopes to spread through Leinné.

The woman defines “leinné” as “innate wanderlust,” stemming from a combination of the English word “leisure” and the French word “inné,” or innate.

To her, leinné represents a passion for living and an eagerness to see the world with confidence, passion, and sensitivity.

“I like to establish a lifestyle brand that combines the meticulous Vietnamese designs with the modern world, all while staying environment-friendly,” Minh said.

“My brand is for modern women who want to discover the world with their eyes and heart wide-open.”

<em>A model poses with a Leinné hat made of raffia. Photo</em>: Supplied
A model poses with a Leinné hat made of raffia. Photo: Supplied

Leinné’s designs use sustainable material that is both natural and recyclable, including raffia – a grass-like material from Madagascar known for its durability and flexibility.

This dedication to sustainability is her war cry against the common misconception that sustainable fashion and artisan crafts are neither trendy nor long-lasting.

“We are trying to prove that our items are durable, easy to use, and highly fashionable,” the young founder of Leinné said.

“[These items] can even be considered haute couture if carefully designed with good choices and use of materials,” she said, confidently adding that one of Leinné’s couture hats appeared on the cover of women’s fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

<em>Cover of Harper's Bazaar magazine, featuring Leinné's couture hat. Photo:</em> Instagram
Cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, featuring Leinné’s couture hat. Photo:Instagram

Minh also uses sustainable, recyclable, and reusable materials for her packaging.

Unlike other fashion brands, she chooses not to print her brand name and logo on her bags in order to encourage customers to reuse them.

Additionally, she spends 15 to 20 percent of her profits researching and developing more sustainable materials and manufacturing techniques while strictly ensuring that her employees have good working conditions and fair salaries.

<em>Leinné’s jewelry is made of environment-friendly materials. Photo: </em>Supplied
Leinné’s jewelry is made of environment-friendly materials. Photo: Supplied
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