I entered the glamorous world of Ipa-Nima at 77-79 Dong Khoi Street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City knowing I would find the ideal birthday gift for my sister, who loves vibrant colors and exotic designs.
The shop, one of a chain founded in 1997 by the famous designer Christina Yu, displays a hundred beautiful handbags made of all kinds of material like leather, velvet, denim, silk and cotton, all detailed with appliqué, beading, tassels, mirrors, buttons and ribbons.
"I'm looking for a genuine goat leather handbag for the daytime, something like this one," a young woman named Le Thuy told the sales clerk, and pointed to a long, white bag on display.
For an evening bag, Thuy picked out a feather handbag and a novelty bag in the shape of an owl.
A one-time lawyer, Hong Kong born Christina Yu had big plans for Ipa-Nima from the outset, like exporting her colorful, individually patterned brand-name bags to stores like Henri Bendel and Barney's in Manhattan, and Harvey Nichols in London.
17 Nha Tho Street, Hoan Kiem District
34 Han Thuyen Street, Hai Ba Trung District
77-79 Dong Khoi Street, District 1
71 Pasteur Street, District 1
Already Ipa-Nima stores can be found in Germany, Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Guam. In Vietnam, the stores are located in Hanoi and HCMC.
"A bag to a woman's ensemble is like jewelry to a face or flowers to a room; they add that touch that can turn "˜conservative' into "˜original' or "˜sexy' into "˜romantic'," Ms. Yu said.
Ipa-Nima appeals to an eclectic mix of women who share a passion for unique expressions of their personal style. Its customers include celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Braxton and Hillary Clinton, who dropped by the Hanoi store in 2001.
Flamboyant design, unique twists and funky embellishments are the hallmarks of Ipa-Nima. The handbags have imaginative themes that range from a Moroccan sunset to the journey of an exiled Geisha to the sensual cyber adventures of Barbarella and beyond. The result is accessories that are fun, sexy, and glamorous, with great fashionable shapes.
Besides bags, Ipa-Nima sells accessories such as earrings and beaded and fur scarves. Other accessories come in leather or velvet and are detailed with embroidery, sparkling beads and sequins.
Ipa-Nima handbags have been seen on the arms of such luminous stars as Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung. So where do they come from?
Each Ipa-Nima product is fashioned out of selected parts from around the world: the fine embroidery and appliqué is done by Vietnamese people while some special silk and sparkling decorations are made in India.
"Whimsical, strong, sexy, kitschy, girly, fun with an undying pledge to glamour," is how Ms. Yu describes her range of IpaNima handbags. Check them out for yourself.