Shopping Guide to Hoi An’s Best Premium Brands
The charming city of Hoi An has many titles. Amongst them ‘shopper’s paradise.’ Shopping in Hoi An is a cornucopia of market finds, lanterns, art, ceramics, leather and clothes. But in a place where everything can be, and is, copied, originality is a rarity.
However that said, original pieces do exist, and Hidden’s here to show you where to find them. The charming boutique offerings that won’t seem like a tourist back home. But rather, will remind you of the timeless elegance of this butter-hued town.
Brief History of Hoi An
Hoi An is a living museum of art and architecture, boasting a unique cultural legacy. The small but bustling Old Town is a testament to its rich history of being Vietnam’s commercial capital during the time of the Champa Empire. Which lasted from the second up until the seventeenth century.
Therefore situated on the banks of the Thu Bon River, the river system was used for the transport of goods between the highlands, inland countries of Laos and Thailand and the low lands. It was in the late sixteenth century that Hoi An flourished when founded as a trading port by Lord Nguyen Hoang in 1595. Consequently it soon became the most important trade port on the East Vietnam Sea.
The Eighteenth Century – Hoi An is the Trading Destination for All of SE Asia
In the eighteenth century, Chinese and Japanese merchants regarded Hoi An as the best destination for trading in all of Southeast Asia. in addition, the Japanese believed the heart of all of Asia (the dragon) lay beneath the earth of Hoi An. The city also rose to prominence as a powerful and exclusive trade conduit between Europe, China, India, and Japan, especially for the ceramic industry. Shipwreck discoveries have shown that Vietnamese and Asian ceramics were transported from Hoi An to as far as Sinai, Egypt.
But the town’s importance was relatively short-lived. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Nguyen’s rule collapsed, and with it, Hoi An’s status. After that his triumphant opponent Emperor Gia Long, who was aided by the French in his victory, repaid them by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Đa Nang. Thus the French-made Đa Nang the new centre of trade (and later French influence) in Central Vietnam.
Therefore the mouth of the Thu Bon River silted up, and Hoi An was vanquished in memories as a forgotten backwater. For the next 200 years, Hoi An remained almost untouched, immune to the changes in the rest of the country.
However this was a blessing in disguise because the Old Town now stands as a living preservation of the past.
Development as a Tourist Destination
Hoi An’s fortunes slowly began to change in 1985, when the Old Town was recognised as a national site of historic architecture and cultural relics. In 1999, the small town was transformed when it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting hordes of tourists.
In recent years international accolades, such as making it on to Travel and Leisure’s ‘Most Thrilling Destination’ and CNN’s ‘Most Romantic City’ lists have resulted in an even greater swelling of tourist numbers.
Living up to its former glory as commercial capital, Hoi An is now Vietnam’s tailoring and leather capital. Bespoke tailoring and handmade leather goods can be made to measure in just a day here, at affordable prices. Known for its romantic lantern-lit streets, it’s also the place to literally light up your life, with a myriad of lantern styles available.
The vast and dizzying modern shopping scene grew out of the wealth accrued by traders. They revelled in being connoisseurs of the material aspects of life- fine tailored clothing, art, jewellery and ceramics. Their legacy lives on, albeit often in the form of cheap copies.
Visitors can be forgiven for seeing only the mass-produced factory souvenirs like fruit print shirts, dishes and cheap lanterns that clamour for attention on every corner. Look more closely and find superbly crafted clothing, jewellery, art and ceramics. All designed for individuals with more discerning tastes, and bigger budgets.
Hoi An’s Premium Brand Shops
We’ve rounded up a selection of stores that epitomise quality and distinction
Alluvia Chocolate, a second-generation family company, grows its beans on the banks of the Mekong Delta. Grown in alluvium rich soil giving their cocoa bean a distinctly fruity flavour. Their cocoa trees planted and maintained by local farmers in accordance with international procedures. Then certified by UTZ, the global standard for sustainable agriculture. After that. the beans are carefully hand-selected. Then dried, ground and processed into chocolates, in the traditional way of the bean-to-bar process. A concept that’s steadily growing in Vietnam. Read this article for more about Alluvia Chocolate.
The store will delight both chocolate aficionados and those with simpler taste buds. It’s an unhurried experience, so sample your way through the taste offerings. Above all there’s a type to suit all tastes, ranging from 40% to 100% dark chocolate, milk chocolate. The flavour range includes coconut, nuts, cinnamon, ginger, coffee and chilli. Be sure to leave with a bar or ten for yourself or as a perfect gift.
Cotic Art Space
If you’re after unique local art, Cotic Art Space Café and Gallery will be sure to have something you’d like. Employing local artisans, the gallery displays a range of unique and original paintings, figurines, silverware, ceramics and clothing.
The art pieces out front are catchy and will have you stop and stare for a while. But the clothing rack is rather bare, so skip it and check out the jewellery and homeware.
Meander through the open flowing art gallery space. After that go through to the open-air middle courtyard teahouse and bar for a refreshment or two. Once imbibed, check out the displays of ceramics, silver, jewellery and clothing.
Hidden Hint: Upstairs you will find a big selection of vases and tea sets laid out on beautiful tables and good views over the historic Hoi An Old Town.
Metiseko is a clothing brand that blends European trends with Vietnamese prints. Inspired by local paintings, architecture, plants and ceramics. The French designers portray their subtle interpretations through pattern and colour. The designs are hand screen printed onto luxurious natural Vietnamese silk and organic Indian cotton ready for product manufacture.
Hidden Hint: Unwind in Metiseko’s courtyard which boasts a koi filled pond, while sipping on locally brewed coffee.
Above all it prides itself on sustainability and ethical production. Using no chemicals in the production process and only manufacturing small quantities under fair conditions in its local workshops.
Metiseko buys only GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) organic cotton. A certification covering environmental and social responsibility throughout the supply chain. The aim of the standard is to define world-wide recognised requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer. Therefore making shopping in Hoi An an environmentally responsible choice.
The store is a sensory haven of calmness and refinement, exuding sophistication. The range offers a perfect mix of casual to semi-formal, all in lightweight silks and soft organic cotton. Perfect for updating a workwear and weekend wardrobe.
Although the clothing is ready to wear, there are alterations available in-store, with a hotel delivery service provided.
Avana aims to empower women through work. Incorporating training and utilising local artisans to enable communities by fostering employment. Reducing poverty within families and helping sustain their traditions.
Hidden Hint: This is the place to shop if you’re after statement clothing that is also socially responsible.
Therefore it sources hand-woven fabric directly from villages, supporting the livelihood of ethnic tribes. Inspired by the spirit of the Co Tu tribe, each garment has a unique story to tell. Fusing international trends with hand-woven brocades and silks to create chic and versatile ready-to-wear pieces.
The store has limited edition designer pieces, blending high-end local silks, international fabrics and rare tribal weaves.
Sunday In Hoi An
Sunday’s philosophy is about bringing customers ‘the carefree and happy feeling of doing everything that you truly love.’ With its Instagram appeal, it’s easy to imagine a world of lazy mornings enjoying breakfast in bed to glamorous Sunday brunches with one too many glasses of champagne.
The brand creates homeware that can inspire and enrich daily life. Whether it be the softest linen bedding that makes you feel like sleeping on clouds. Or beautiful ceramics to make every dish even more delicious. Perhaps lovely scented candles that relax you during bath time.
Working with master artisans from various handicraft villages throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia. They create beautiful handmade products from natural materials such as bamboo, silk, linen and wood. The emphasis is on handmade, high-quality design adding a unique touch to day-to-day living.
The store’s pastel palette of inviting home ware gives off candyfloss happy vibes, making a purchase hard to resist.
Hidden hint: The store is an Instagram utopia, from the postcard-worthy ‘From Hoi An With Love’ front wall to the whimsical wooden rope swings in the back.
Sat – Sun: 9:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Reaching Out (Hòa Nhập) was established in 2000. It had the vision of providing opportunities for people with disabilities to learn skills and gain meaningful employment. So that they are able to integrate fully with their communities and lead independent and fulfilling lives.
Their unique talents are showcased in the array of exquisitely crafted goods. The silver jewellery is subtle, modern and quirky. The lantern earrings and teapot pendant strike the right chords, managing to look charming but not kitsch. In addition the tea and coffee sets stand out from those in other stores, with an antique refined edge. Overall, the store has some unique designs at affordable prices. It’s a friendly, inviting space that inspires you to reach out and buy a gift or two.
Above all these certainly are gifts that give twice. The unique items you buy or the experiences you enjoy at Reaching Out give the gift of opportunity to the skilled artisans and servers. In addition to your fond memories of authentic Hoi An.
Hidden Hint: Walkthrough to the back where you can observe artisans at work.
After that, head over to the Reaching Out Teahouse, staffed by only deaf and mute employees.
The Gemstone Art Museum – GAM
The Gemstone Art Museum sees itself as more than just a museum. The concept was to create a synergistic space where visitors can explore the beauty of gemstones. In addition to seeking some sanctuary from the heat of the day in the magnificent example of a 19th-century Chinese merchant’s home. The now contemporary space merges seamlessly to form a unique aesthetic experience.
Hidden Hint: Savour a cafe or a glass of wine in the quiet garden courtyard; sip a glass of champagne or fresh juice in the first-floor lounge, surrounded by sculptures; or simply sit on the balcony soaking in the most beautiful view of Hoi An’s ancient rooftops and river life.
GAM is home to the jewellery collections of Vietnamese born but Milan based artist Nga Duong. Her work is a testament to her love for nature, which she views as a protagonist. Interpretations of wildlife, flora and fauna re-created in her jewellery designs combine, making striking statement pieces. In addition the influence of her European home and Asian culture is also tangible in the design.
Chula’s international brand identity is born from Spanish roots and blended with Vietnamese culture. As a social enterprise, it works with small local communities from Northern Vietnam. Employing a skilled staff of 60 people, 75 per cent of whom have a physical disability.
Hidden Hint: What sets Chula apart is that each item is handmade.
Described as a mix of a fashion store, art gallery and traditional Hoi An home. Walking in here may make you feel you’ve walked into a painting. The Hoi An store has a Frida Kahlo appeal with Picasso vibes. In other words it’s bright, eclectic, unique and unapologetic about its vibrancy.
The upbeat Spanish music will make you want to dance. And what better way to do so than with a new frock!
Each of the stores listed are favourites, and quality is guaranteed. But unlike the fast fashion of retail malls, shopping here is quite the immersive experience. Complete with balcony views and courtyard shade. In addition all offer Instagram worthy backdrops, perfect for showing off your new purchases.
However between the heat, narrow streets and tourist traffic, shopping in Hoi An can be exhausting. Therefore Hidden recommends using our shopping guides and mapping out a route. Aim to shop in the morning or evening to escape the heat and crowds. Remember to pace yourself and intersperse your shopping with a stop at one of Hoi An’s best coffee shops. Or, try some of its famous street food such as cao lau, banh mi or com ga for a quick, tasty refuel between shops.