In The Mood - Saigon: Celebrating Artisans & True Craftsmanship
When I first heard about In The Mood - Saigon and how it was a home and lifestyle store that stays true to its Vietnamese roots, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, it was located in Thao Dien, the expat hub of Saigon. Let me be clear that nothing is inherently wrong with Thao Dien. It’s great if you’re looking for a quaint, relaxed area away from the honking of motorbikes or your local “bắp xào đây!” man biking his cart along to that fabulous, but far too loud jingle on rotation. It’s especially great if you have a family and prefer a more spacious living area. But how ‘Vietnamese’ could this place actually be?
Rarely am I surprised, but when I am, it is in the best kind of way. From the products to the people, it was refreshing to see In The Mood - Saigon reconnect to what has been lost in the mayhem of mass-produced, quick, shoddy goods commonly found in places like Ben Thanh Market. No, In The Mood - Saigon is something truly unique that is made for locals and expats alike, by locals and expats.
A part of The Snap Café, a rustic, stylish space housing a variety of boutiques, restaurants, and a café, In The Mood - Saigon’s storefront truly makes an impression on you as you first enter and, like its products, it’s something that lasts long after you’ve left. It’s calm. It’s quiet. It embodies the feeling of escape after having been in the city for too long and needing to get away to remind you why you’re in Vietnam in the first place. It’s how you’ve experienced sunrise upon waking up and stepping outside your door to be greeted by the countryside of Vietnam. It’s refreshing.
Founders, Florence and Valentin, were both born and raised in France with Vietnamese ethnic roots, but made the physical and spiritual leap to Saigon to gain a better spiritual awareness and understanding of their Vietnamese culture and heritage.
Both founders are no strangers to fashion design and décor, which made this an easy partnership marrying an eye for design and hunger for quality craftsmanship together. Florence has been in the fashion industry from a very early age working for high-end American and French sportswear and streetwear brands in Paris before she co-founded the brand, Anna Moï, the first French-Vietnamese Ethnic-Chic concept store in the center of Paris back in the 90’s. Valentin is no stranger to sourcing and retail, and has worked very closely with artisans to produce fine handcrafted home lines and decoration items for export to retailers in Europe, USA, Australia and also well-known designers.
Florence and Valentin were friends and residents of Saigon long before they were partners and, after having lived here for quite some time, they shared a common notion that things weren’t as it once was.
“Our philosophy is to offer aesthetical and innovative decoration, clothing and accessories for Asian trendy homes and urban lifestyle.”
While some things in front of us are far better than the things we’ve left behind, true craftsmanship is not one of them. Finding goods for a bargain price are always nice, but these goods rarely last. Quite frankly, consumers are always left wanting more. In the haze of mass-produced handicrafts and goods, quality has dwindled. Craftsmanship fundamentally implies that handcrafted goods are ‘special’ and made with proper care, time, and attention in the hands of local artisans. However, with the rise in mass-production of fast goods all of what makes craftsmanship special is essentially left at the door and in the hands of machinery.
High-quality goods were traded out for everyone to enjoy, but locals and expats. Most high-quality handicrafts were getting exported to foreign, international markets. Florence and Valentin recognised a gap in the market for a sustainable, yet ambitious, fashion-forward retail business rooted in Vietnam-sourced goods. Thus, it became very clear that, with their Vietnamese-French hearts and spirits, In The Mood - Saigon was destined to happen.
Many foreign companies will contractually bind local artisans to misappropriate and resell their goods, which pigeonholes artisans from the acknowledgement they deserve. In The Mood - Saigon respects the spirit of true craftsmanship by building a brand around partnership and collaboration.
The founders were committed to bringing consumers back to the heart of what is special about this place we call home with a refined approach in lifestyle and home décor taking a contemporary French approach while maintaining the essence of Vietnamese traditions and the skills of local artisans.
When friends and family come to visit for the first time, I always hesitate on recommending places commonly featured on blogs, ahem, Ben Thanh Market. Is that how you really want to remember Vietnam in all its beauty? No, you tell them to go to In The Mood - Saigon to pick up this incredibly unique cinnamon box. I know what you’re thinking, but no, it’s not a box with cinnamon in it. The wooden box is made entirely of cinnamon bark, which gently infuses this aromatic spiced fragrance into whatever you put inside like salt or sugar.
And for me, while I love my landlord dearly, that multi-coloured, floral printed bedding that was generously offered, no longer has a place in my home. In The Mood - Saigon offers 100% eco-friendly, locally sourced and designed satin cotton bedding. It feels just as good as it looks as their designs feature local artisans who pay homage to different eras of Vietnam.
I wish I had known about In The Mood - Saigon sooner. Perhaps that’s the beauty of living in Vietnam. Something that was conceptualized only a few months ago can quickly become reality, right in your very own neighborhood. Nothing feels quite as special as knowing whatever you are purchasing is ethically sourced and made, but also authentic to the people who have created it.
Image source: In The Mood – Saigon