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Draped in brocade: Hanoi artist glams up dolls with traditional Vietnamese attire

Friday, November 26, 2021, 12:12 GMT+7
Draped in brocade: Hanoi artist glams up dolls with traditional Vietnamese attire
Dolls are pictured wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Hanoi-based artist Hoang Anh celebrates the diversity of Vietnamese culture through his miniature recreations of the traditional garments worn by various ethnic minority groups from across Vietnam.  

Dolls abound at Anh’s 80-square-meter home in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi, where visitors are wowed with the intricate, handmade clothing he has created for each doll in order to represent various ethnicities and time periods in Vietnamese history. 

His collection of handmade traditional Vietnamese attire is so massive it seems to spill off the shelves in his house.

“My home also doubles as a painting studio, a fabric storeroom, and a doll gallery,” Anh said.

He began creating replicas of traditional clothing about ten years ago when he was awed by the brightly-colored outfits and dazzling jewelry items worn by ethnic minorities in northern Vietnam. 

Anh envisioned that the clothes could be recreated for dolls and would become unique, marketable items, matching the popularity of dollies dressed in traditional Korean and Japanese garments.

A doll wears traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

A doll wears traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Artist Hoang Anh in his studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Artist Hoang Anh in his studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Twenty-six months later, Anh finished his first doll outfit after painstaking research, prototyping, and design work.

“Collectors don’t want big works, and smaller pieces are quite common, so I had to find my own niche,” Anh explained.

“I decided to scale the clothes down and make them more accessible to the masses. 

"Through a process of creating, altering, and detailing, I’m able to give each doll a personalized garment.”

After years of work, Anh’s doll garments are now popular with collectors and are even stocked at souvenir shops in Hanoi as well as various airport stores throughout Vietnam.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had planned to begin researching traditional Vietnamese male garments, but the plan is on hold until he is able to freely travel and conduct field research. 

Dolls wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Dolls wear traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Until then, Anh plans to focus on refining his current products in order to appease foreign tourists, his main customer base.

“Foreign tourists tend to do extensive research on patterns, details, and materials before they buy dolls," he elaborated.

"For that reason, I need to understand the cultural quintessence of the outfits that I make.”

As Anh sees it, his dolls are not merely souvenirs – they are a gateway for foreign visitors to get to know Vietnamese culture.

A portion of Anh’s sales will go to a charity supporting ethnic minority children in northern mountainous areas, the region from which he draws most of his inspiration.

Dolls wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Dolls are dressed in traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Dolls wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Dolls don traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Dolls wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

Dolls put on traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

A shelf full of dolls wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

A shelf with multiple dolls wearing traditional Vietnamese garments in artist Hoang Anh’s studio in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre

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