Born and raised in Europe but Liisi has a special passion for Vietnamese Ao Dai (traditional gown) and Vietnamese silk products.
Liisi next to silk garments from her own brand.
Business started from the love for Ao Dai
Liisi Mari (born 1990) was born and raised in Estonia. Liisi’s family had been painters for three generations, so she inherited some of that talent.
Living in the cradle of art, since childhood Liisi has always been immersed in paintbrushes and canvases. Her favorite technique is drawing on silk.
Later, Liisi graduated from the University of Arts in Estonia and went to Hong Kong (China) to study. Here, she met the man of her dreams and got married to a Vietnamese.
"When we first met, I often shared with my husband Ngoc my hobbies. He said Vietnam is a famous country for its silk. We talked about a lot of things but I was really fascinated when he had the same aspirations," Liisi said.
When she was introduced to Ngoc's family, his mother brought her to a tailor to make an Ao Dai as a gift.
The first time she held the Ao Dai in her hands, Liisi felt a strange sensation. In Liisi’s head, the image of paint brushes dancing on her shirt appeared. Just like that, she was infatuated with Ao Dai in all its magnificence.
Since then, Liisi has spent most of her time studying silk and Ao Dai.
The young Estonian woman decided to choose silk to start a business thanks to her love of the Vietnamese Ao Dai.
In 2018, she got married and moved to Vietnam to live with her husband. In addition to painting, Liisi occasionally does modeling work.
Liisi is so "addicted" to Ao Dai that she wears them whenever a special occasion comes up, whether it is Tet or a wedding or party.
"Ao Dai contains the essence of national identity. I feel confident wearing them," Liisi said.
Liisi saw that Vietnamese silk had a lot of potential so she started a business in her husband’s hometown with her own silk brand.
Liisi’s husband was then working for a company with a monthly salary of thousands of dollars, but decided to quit his job to cooperate with his wife on the business.
"My husband studied business administration, but I was inclined to art. We have different personalities but have the same orientation and support each other in our work," said Liisi.
According to Liisi, silk is a great material for painting. The natural softness of the silk fibers helps the colors to spread and blend together into attractive new colors.
"My products contain my love and passion for silk. The motifs on the Ao Dai are all hand drawn by me so each set is unique, nothing is mass produced," Liisi said.
|In the contest “Charming Ao Dai 2019”, Liisi won 4th place with the Ao Dai she designed.|
In addition to the Ao Dai, Liisi also developed a hand-painted silk scarf and silk pillows. Just like the Ao Dai, there is only one version for each piece.
In addition to the products drawn by Liisi, the couple also organizes sessions for customers who want to hand-draw the motifs of their scarf or Ao Dai at the sewing factory.
“Painting on silk is an artistic activity that helps people find relaxation, tranquility, stress relief as well as training persistence and creativity,” Liisi said.
Bringing Vietnamese silk to the world
|Drawing on canvas class for children.|
The Estonian woman added that, although the business is stable, the couple’s silk brand has not officially had a store, but only accepts orders via online form.
In order for customers to choose easily, couple are using a smart fashion app with a “Try-on” feature – allowing buyers to try on clothes and accessories on models virtually.
After being welcomed by the Vietnamese market, the couple brought “made in Vietnam” products to other countries. However, the distribution stops at retail activities.
According to Liisi, customers in Finland, Estonia, Germany, the US, and China find Vietnamese silk products through the couple’s sales page.
|A phoenix silk scarf hand drawn by Liisi.|
Mr. Tran Ngoc, Liisi’s husband, said that in 2020, the couple intends to export through a large distribution channel, but due to the epidemic, it has been postponed. Currently, this plan has just been restarted. He will focus on exporting to Estonia and Germany.
"Because of limited capital and the lack of conditions to invest in large factories, my wife and I have developed the model of linking, sewing scarves and silk robes with traditional craft villages.
For standard product line, we order outsourcing. High-end line, exclusive design, we bring them to a small self-production workshop. However, the source of silk fabric must always ensure the standards of Vietnam. Because the foreign market is quite careful,” Mr. Ngoc said.
|Liisi inside the canvas studio.|
Mr. Ngoc shared that the couple started a business entirely with their own capital and did not seek funds from others.
The brand name this may not be widely developed but the production is there. The quantity of goods is not high but he believes this is a sustainable way to go.
At the beginning, Ngoc and his wife also faced many difficulties in finding markets and approaching customers.
With business knowledge and brand development acquired for many years, Ngoc and his wife promote themselves through social networks. At the same time, the couple brings their products to travel fairs, world consumer fairs, and art shows.
"Silk is woven from insect silk. From this material, we can create many different fabrics, shiny like satin, rough like linen and burlap, hard like organza … “, the owner added.
|Liisi and her husband introduce the silk brand to the world to promote Vietnamese culture.|
People often consider silk as a glossy fabric, loose and not for the young, but this material can be used for all ages, different in color and design.
Liisi said the developing the silk brand is not simply a business. The main purpose is to promote Vietnamese traditional culture, and elevate products to art.
"My husband and I are determined to move around and live in both countries – Vietnam and Estonia. So, everyone has the opportunity to be close to their family. In the future, I plan to open a representative office in Estonia. My mother also likes Vietnamese silk products," said Liisi.
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