Hoi An Leather Buyer’s Guide
Visitors to Hoi An are usually aware of its reputation as a shopper’s paradise, and of being the place to get made to measure clothes. But few know how it is also possible to get made to order leather shoes and bags in Hoi An.
Globally, traditional shoe-making is a dying craft, phased out by mechanisation by the late nineteenth century. And in countries where cobblers still ply their trade, a custom made shoe will cost a pretty penny. But not in Hoi An. Have you ever found the perfect pair of shoes, except, not in the colour you wanted or size you needed, or just too expensive?
Well, you’re in the right place. Because here, a new pair of leather shoes will cost a fraction of what it would in Western countries. As with the tailors, all you need is a picture of the design you want, and you can walk out with new treads within a day.
The Old Town is lined with leather stores but the quality varies
However, the streets of the Old Town are lined with store after leather store. But all selling pretty much the same items-shoes and bags. However, although the styles are strikingly similar, it’s the quality that varies. So unless you’re a leather expert, determining the quality is not an easy task! To assure customers it’s real leather, staff will hold a flame to the product to show it’s not flammable, trying to sell you on promises of quality, while urging you to make a purchase, making the experience quite overwhelming!
Hidden Hint: Most shops sell real leather, but the Vietnamese do have a product called “si-mi-lee” or leather-like vinyl. Ask for the lighter test if in doubt. Real leather doesn’t burn. Fake leather does.
Which is where Hidden comes in! Our leather buying guide arms you with insights on how to select quality leather. We look in-depth at the leather buying process and conclude with where to buy some of the best leather goods in Hoi An.
Hoi An Leather Quality
Leather is known for its flexibility, durability, and sleek sexiness. A good quality bag or shoe should last years. Regardless of which animal the leather hide comes from, leather has four basic grains or qualities; full-grain leather, top-grain leather, genuine leather, and corrected-grain leather.
The most popular type is full-grain leather, characterised by its luxurious, smooth surface that reveals its natural grain. Not snuffed, sanded, or buffed to remove any natural marks or imperfections from its surface. Its fibres are stable and durable because the grain has not been removed. There is less moisture in the leather from any prolonged contact as the grain has a characteristic of breathing. This type of leather does not wear out easily. Instead, it develops a patina, which is a thin layer that protects the leather from damage from wearing or corroding; it also gives the leather a pleasing aesthetic look. It is used in making high-quality footwear and furniture.
Top-grain leather is the most common
Top-grain leather has the second-highest leather quality of the high-end category of leather products. It is more pliable and thinner as its layer is separated away. Its surface is sanded, and a finish coat is added to make it less breathable with a plastic feel and this makes it seem cooler. It has better stain resistance and is less expensive than full-grain leather. Many people prefer buying this type of leather as it is durable and readily available.
Genuine leather is not a statement about its authenticity
Genuine leather is made from real leather. In a class of real leather products, genuine leather products are the lowest in quality. These products are made from the leftovers of leather after the high-end products are made. The products manufactured from it do not look or feel as pleasing compared to those made from high-quality leather. Likewise, products made from genuine leather do not last as long before they wear out. However, most people can afford this type of leather product as they are widely available.
Hidden Hint: When holding samples, you’ll notice that some are thick and some thin. The thinner type is Chinese leather, which will tear easily, unlike leather sourced from Vietnam and Thailand.
Most stores in Hoi An source their leather from China, which is often thinner than the full grain you may be imagining. It’s still leather, but chances are it won’t wear well with age, and will likely tear. It may work for flat sandals, but steer far away if you want men’s shoes or a bag made. Generally, the cheaper the product, the lower the quality.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Buying Leather Products in Hoi An
Smell it: Real leather is treated with natural dyes and will smell natural. Treated leather may still have a whiff of chemicals or even have a plastic smell.
Feel it: Leather should be fine and smooth to the touch, with a decent heft. Lower quality leather will feel thin and almost like vinyl.
Hidden Hint: Look closely to ensure the leather isn’t plastic stuck on to suede.
See it: Look for the natural grain. Hold it up to the light if necessary. Lower quality treated leather won’t have the natural wrinkles.
Look at the non-leather aspects of the product. An item of good leather quality will usually have quality stitching to match. Flaws in stitching, hardware, and lining can indicate inferior leather.
The Leather Buying Process in Hoi An
Select the leather: This is the one time you’ll be happy that what you see isn’t what you’ll get. Stores have stockpiles of leather and suede in every imaginable colour and grade, so if you see a readymade product, but want it in a different colour, it can easily be done.
Hoi An store owners tend to look out for each other, so if the store doesn’t have the exact colour leather you’re looking for, staff will likely offer to go to a neighbouring shop and bring back a sample for you. Or you’ll be taken to a nearby factory to browse a larger selection.
Look for quality craftsmanship
Look for quality craftsmanship. Hoi An wouldn’t be a leather shopper’s paradise if it didn’t cater to all types of budgets. At every leather store in Hoi An, you’ll find different price points, ranging from cheap to extremely expensive. While the higher end items will be of better quality, a 500,000 VND (21 USD) sandal could give you considerable wear too. Examine the workmanship at different stores. Are the seams even, or do they show rushed production?
The cost will go up depending on the lining. Suede is cheaper than leather, but strong suede will be hardy enough. A softer cashmere will also be strong, while cotton or polyester lining is sure to tear. Plastic lining is an absolute no, as it will smell.
Another important aspect when buying leather shoes in Hoi An is to look out for the sole. Some stores have a tendency to stick on soles, instead of stitch it. The result is the sole coming apart after just a few wears. The price also matters, as cheaper soles will wear thin or come apart quicker. Ask to see the soles, and consider paying more for a better quality material.
Where to Buy Leather Goods in Hoi An
Claiming the title of ‘Hoi An’s first shoe shop’. Friendly Leather has a well-deserved reputation as being one of the best leather stores in town. Known for the use of high-quality leather, and manufacture of good quality products. In other words, shopping here guarantees satisfaction, including a six-month money-back guarantee. The staff clearly explain the varying grades of leather, quality, and corresponding prices. Plus the bonus of shopping here is the clearly displayed prices.
Friendly Leather Prices
Women’s shoes: 575,000 VND – 1,950,000 VND (25 – 85 USD)
Men’s shoes: 805,000 VND – 2,300,000 VND (35 – 100 USD)
Handbags: 1,495,000 – 2,645,000 VND (65 – 115 USD)
Duffel bag: 1,725,000 VND – 3,105,000 VND (75 – 135 USD)
Da Bao Real Leather Hoi An
The quality shows here, with every item in this Hoi An shop made of 100% leather. Go here if you’re in the market for a handbag or duffel bag. With five stores, there’s a huge selection to choose from, although the styles may be particularly appealing to men. Made with buffalo leather from Vietnam, the range of bags give off a vintage, ruddy, outback vibe. The other option is crocodile skin, which is more expensive. The staff are friendly and happy to answer any question.
Da Bao Real Leather Prices
Backpack: 989,000 VND – 2,185,000 VND (43 – 95 USD)
Duffel bag: 2,300,000 VND – 2,760,000 VND (100 – 120 USD)
Belts: 506,000 VND (22 USD)
Tu Chi Leather Bags
This family-owned Hoi An leather store is in the upper price range, but customers rave about the quality of the bags. Not so much the shoes, with reported complaints of the soles coming off, especially for sandals. So if you can’t find the colour you’re looking for in-store, they’ll take you to a leather wholesaler to choose your exact shade. A bonus of shopping here is seeing the tailors and cobblers at work.
Tu Chi Leather Prices
Women’s shoes: 805,000 VND – 2,760,000 VND (35 – 120 USD)
Men’s shoes: 1,265,000 VND – 2,070,000 VND (55 – 90 USD)
Handbags: 1,380,000 VND – 2,300,000 VND (60 – 100 USD)
Duffel bag: 2,530,000 VND – 3,220,000 VND (110 – 140 USD)
Le Phan Leather
Situated just outside of Hoi An’s Old Town, this leather store is unpretentious and homely. Offering a great selection at equally great prices. There’s a handbag in just about every style. In addition, the owner, Titu, is delightfully chirpy and helpful. Her sister assists in the store, while her brother creates the products, making it a true family-run business.
Le Phan Leather Prices
Women’s shoes: 460,000 VND – 805,000 VND (20 – 35 USD)
Men’s shoes: 920,000 VND – 1,150,000 VND (40 – 50 USD)
Handbag: 805,000 VND – 1,380,000 VND (35 – 60 USD)
Duffel bag: 1,610,000 VND (70 USD) upwards
Song Da Leather
Address: 341 Nguyen Duy Hieu – Hours: 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Daily
Song Da – an unassuming Hoi An leather store managed by the well-versed Lien. Chatting to her is a pleasure as she’ll guide you through the shoe making process. Although the store has a small selection of bags and can whip up a leather jacket, shoes are the main product. However, it’s one of the few stores that do high heels and block heels, which are trickier than flats. Lien is also able to advise on a soft or high arch and is knowledgeable on what’s best for different types of feet.
Song Da Leather Prices
Women’s flats: 345,000 VND – 805,000 VND (15 – 35 USD)
High heels: 690,000 VND – 1,150,000 VND (30 – 50 USD)
Men’s shoes: 805,000 VND – 1,265,000 VND (35 – 55 USD)
Handbag: 1,150,000 VND (50 USD)
Duffel bag: 1,840,000 VND (80 USD upwards)
Jacket: 2,760,000 VND (120 USD)
Laughing Cow Leather Shop – Bo Cuoi
Address: 349 Nguyen Duy Hieu – Hours 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Daily
A small store that has a decent selection of shoes and bags. The owner is adamant they don’t use leather sourced from China for the bags or shoes, as it smells and tears easily. Therefore they use buffalo leather for the duffel bags, while the shoes use cow leather. In addition, the family all speak excellent English and are extremely proud of their workmanship.
Laughing Cow Leather Shop Prices
Women’s shoes: 575,000 VND (25 – 65 USD)
Men’s shoes: 1,035,000 VND – 1,380,000 VND (45 – 60 USD)
Handbags: 1,380,000 VND – 2,070,000 VND (60 – 90 USD)
Duffel bag: 2,185,000 VND (95 USD)
Hidden Hint: Aside from Tu Chi, all the stores are located on the same street. So start at Le Phan and make your way all the way down Tran Phu to Da Bao.
Hoi An Central Market – Leather
Address: Corner Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu – Hours: 7am-midnight
Leather products here are comparable to those in the smaller stores in Hoi An but cheaper. However, you won’t get the top-notch finishing quality of the high-end stores. But you will walk away with a decent quality product made at a much lower price than in the stores. But bear in mind this is the market. So, expect some accosting by pushy vendors as soon as you lay an eye on an item. Be prepared, know what you want, and know-how to haggle. As with the Hoi An stores, you can custom make a shoe, with your choice of leather, style and design.
Hidden Hint: Wait 10 days before wearing your shoes, allowing the glue between the uppers and soles to dry. This will prevent it coming apart after just a few wears.
The shoes here don’t look different from those in the stores. However, Chut from Shop 48 says the quality depends on what customers are willing to pay. Because according to her, cow leather sourced from Hanoi and Sapa is the norm. But those who want the cheapest product are given vinyl. The soles are glued on, not stitched. But Chut says only the cheaper soles come unstuck.
Hoi An Central Market Leather Prices
Sandals: 230,000 VND – 460,000 VND (10 – 20 USD)
Women’s shoes: 690,000 VND – 920,000 VND (30 – 40 USD)
Men’s shoes: 805,000 – 1,265,000 VND (35 – 55 USD)
The leather trade in Hoi An is an enduring (and endearing) tribute to the past, where the craftsmanship of skilled artisans was highly valued. Therefore Hidden recommends that you take advantage of the extraordinary luxury of having a custom-designed shoe, jacket or bag made in Hoi An.
We recommend giving the market a try for lower-priced sandals and shoes. But go to a reputable store for an item you want to pay more for. If you’re concerned about lugging extra luggage, have it shipped home. Above all the experience doesn’t end here! So once back home, you can always order more items from the store which has your measurements on file and will ship to you.