Mot shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc
Mot shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

Vietnam's Một shoes emphasise local style over globalised sneaker culture

New footwear brand Một has created a shoe it sees as distinctly Vietnamese, in a pushback against the influence of globalisation.

Industrial designer Huynh Quang Ngoc Han co-founded the brand with Pham Do Kien Quoc, who runs a factory that's been producing shoes for overseas markets for more than 30 years.

The two wanted to use the Phuoc Binh factory's manufacturing expertise to mass produce a high-quality shoe that spoke directly to locals.

Một shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

Huynh started with the style of the shoe. Acknowledging the popularity of brands such as Converse and Vans in her home market, she chose to do a sneaker, but infused with the design language of contemporary Vietnam.

Patterns on Một's sole reference the country's geography and heritage. On the underside, there's a segment of the Vietnamese coastline, while along the edge is a texture inspired by traditional roof tiles — themselves designed to emulate water ripples in homage to the country's rainy season and floods.

Một shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

Huynh embraced pattern in a nod to "urban life" and as a contrast to the more minimal upper. The laces are hidden from view in her upper design, concealed under flaps.

Eight stitched squares on these flaps hint at the lace loops underneath – a feature Huynh says symbolises the subtlety and honesty of the Vietnamese people. Meanwhile, the broad fit accommodates "typical Vietnamese wider feet".

Một shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

"Một is an attempt to provide a product that truly represents the local market's values and speaks directly to their needs," said Huynh, who designed Một through her design consultancy, DCSG.

"For the past 20 years, the local Vietnamese market has been heavily fused with global influences — from aesthetics to quality standards. Foreign goods have always been objects of desire and benchmarks for local product brands."

Một shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

She said local designers had struggled to diverge from Western influence but also from "nostalgic" nods to colonial aesthetics.

"Một is an attempt to define a modern identity for Vietnamese design, by starting a conversation within the consumer him/herself," she added.

Một shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

The understated look of the shoes is key, as they are meant to fit with a more minimal lifestyle, where people choose to own only few pairs of shoes. Một means "one" in Vietnamese and the brand has used "one pair, all day" as a slogan.

As well as black and a light grey that is nearly white, Một shoes are available in a range of bright colours that Huynh likens to "the familiar vibrancy and saturation typical to Vietnamese aesthetics". Uppers come in canvas or cow leather.

The designs are unisex and all-ages.

Một shoes by Huynh Quang Ngoc Han and Pham Do Kien Quoc

DCSG worked closely with Ho Chi Minh City's Phuoc Binh factory on the project, calling on their experience of manufacturing shoes for the US, European and Japanese markets in lieu of in-house research and development.

"This is not a traditional client-manufacturer relationship typical to Vietnam, but a true collaboration based on absolute trust and teamwork," said Huynh.

Another recent twist on minimal sneakers has come from Canadian footwear brand Native Shoes, which uses entirely plant-cased materials including eucalyptus, pineapple husk and dried hevea milk.