Ox’s Buffalos and other servers unplugged

7 02 2009

Happy New year Again! Its the chinese new year of the Buffalo, or is it an Ox?, I guess it depends where you live.
For those of us living in Asia Chinese New Year is a sort of a second chance at New Beginnings and all those Resolutions that we didn’t quite get around to making back in January.

Those people that “know” are telling us all that this year is going to be difficult, already over the world we are reading of lay offs, people are worried. I was shocked to read of the man who shot his children and his wife and then himself… The Japanese are predicting that more men this year will kill themselves over job stress and financial security than every before.

I read in the local newspapers here that entire handicraft villages are hungry because the containers they used to fill with their pottery, their lacquer ware, or their baskets are no longer leaving the shores of Vietnam, or if they are, they are not being paid for.

Here at Velvet Underground we employ 25 Women, directly, and indirectly hundreds of women in villages earn their living by producing for us their taffetas, their velvets and their silks. Women in villages far from Hanoi sit together in groups whilst their children are at school and embroider the sheets that you see on the pages of our website or have already on your beds at home.

I have to admit that the responsibility I feel towards these women is sometimes overwhelming. I have lived and worked with them for over 5 years now, watched their babies grow, listened to their stories of their other lives that is not our workshop. I am continually amazed by their skills, each her own. Some of us are hearing impaired, and I love the way we manage to convey the possibility of new products and ideas with huge gestures of are hands.. an international and wonderful tool for communication; it beats miss pronunciation any day.
Over the years people have tied to convince me that I should seek subsidies and aid because I employ handicapped women. I laugh. In my eyes they are far from handicapped. They are quite simply talented. the only real draw back is that when there is too much to talk the work, that requires their hands, is laid down.

We try, and I consider that we succeed, in being flexible. A sick baby, or a flash flood, are all good enough reasons to require a mother to stay at home without fear of losing her job, though I am not sure how we will fair in this recession.

For my part I am going to have to concentrate on being creative this year. it is not enough to just expect that people will buy are products, beautiful though they may be, lets face it, we produce products of desire, rather than need.

And then there is TET, or Chinese New year as the rest of the world knows it by. I didn’t take heed on monday and Tuesday, I was too busy blowing out the candles on my boys birthday cakes. they turned 17 and 15 earlier this week. But by friday the lull in our email account was audible. I hesitatingly mentioned to Van. “don’t you think its strange that we have received no emails this week?” “No its TET” she said “people are busy praying or not back at work yet…” It was then that I had to remind her that for the rest of the world TET is just another new moon, one of 12 in the year.
“Ring our email server provider” I said. and sure enough, they had cut us off. Our website no longer opens at the click of a button.. it might be off enjoying jupiter for all I know cyberspace being such a vast unknown for me. Incoming emails are returned directly to their sources as being “undeliverable” and the requests for bespoke velvet goods are hence seemingly ignored.

So, please, if you have written to us this week, please write again soon. Were not out too lunch. were not even home sick. we’ve just been inadvertently out of touch, and on behalf of our email server provider (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) we apologize.

In the mean time, happy new year from all of us!

Such a nice day !

1 12 2008

Sunday 30th of November, Velvet Underground participate to the Charity Bazaar.It was a big day, but with a lot of fun, smiles and happy customers!

Funny to show you the differents steps of this day !


Beginning of the installation at 6.30 a.m.


Everything is ready at 9.00 a.m !


Velvet Underground team, with beautiful aprons.


At the lunch time, we enjoy the Brunei food : spicy and delicious !


All the afternoon, we were very busy !


5.00, end of the Bazaar. Tired but happy of the day !

New video !

26 11 2008

All you want to know about Velvet Underground is inside :

Christmas just around the corner

14 11 2008

Little Angel

Hanoi has many womens groups.
As an Australian I belong to the Australian New  Zealand womans club, Isabelle is a member of the french womens association “coup de pouce’ though literally translates  as ‘a push from the thumb’ ! actually means “a helping hand”.
We  all work under the umbrella of the Hanoi International Womens Club and each year our mission is to  raise funds for people in need in Vietnam. At a recent meeting, I was touched and proud to be a part of the hands that were raised to approve of an urgent donatation to flood victoms in a village near hanoi who have lost not only most of their homes and schools but also their winter crops.
On every last sunday of November, the International Womans Club with the help of the different country womans groups raises a large amount of money through the Hanoi International Womans Club Charity Bazaar ( http://www.hanoi-iwc.com/ )all of it is donated to people here in need
Velvet Underground is pround to particpate in this Bazaar this year. Its fun, and full of good food, and other treats from around the world.
We have been busy, there is a slight chilll in the air, and we can feel christmas just around the corner…..


Women’s Day

21 10 2008

Yesterday was Women’s day in Vietnam.

I don’t think it’s easy being a woman here, in a society of extended families often woman return home from a long day at work to look after not only their own, but those of their extended family. Some pedal or drive for hours in the heat or the rain in order to work.

Velvet Underground comprises of 25 woman, all of us have our own personal dreams lives and our own unique past.

I have to confess that often I find myself dreaming of morning teas, lazy afternoons painting or reading and a whole other life that does not require the nine to five of life in our workshop.

However today when I went into the shop I was greeted by Quynh, she was helping a customer, who she had met several times before and as with many other regulars, she knows her by her first name. I was struck by two things.. firstly her hair cut newly framing her smiling face, and secondly; by the confidence and ease with which she dealt with her customer. “I feel like Victoria Beckam!” she said, and we laughed. “go girl! “ I thought to myself…. Move over Victoria.

I guess Saturdays are good days for lazy afternoons.

Back with a new collection !

26 09 2008

We all know that « all work and no play makes jack a dull boy’ so after a wonderful summer break we came back to work with our heads and hearts full of good ideas. Two weeks later and a new collection was whipped up with four bold colours indigo, plum, lime green and pink.

We threw in some new accessories, a computor tray so we can safely surf the net in bed and a newer smaller zipped up version of our Toy boy designed by Huyen, one of our staff.

Here below a sneak preview of some of our new range, which after a busy week of sorting and photographing Isabelle is now uploading onto our website. All this making us exhausted and ready for another holiday…..thank goodness Christmas is just around the corner.

The final result on the website !

Velvet on the Lake

12 09 2008
is the brainchild of a friend of mine, Margaret, myself and a couple of glasses of wine.
We thought it would be nice for people friends, and collegues, and why not other people to have a small conveniently located appartment in central hanoi to stay in whilst visiting hanoi for work or pleasure.
When a gorgeous high ceilinged, wooden floor boarded, french colonial apartment came up for lease right around the corner from Bobby Chinns restaurant (www.bobbychinn.com )on Hoan Kiem Lake we decided that this dream just had to become a reality.
Months of negotiations, some doubts, and many metres of velvet later the apartment is finally ready. It includes a lovely large bedroom plus a very large sitting room upstairs and a small fully equipped kitchen downstairs.

The special rate for friends of Velvet Underground until end 2008 is $110 per night including tax and including breakfast that guests prepare themselves. Tea ,coffee, cereal, instant noodles, juice and bread will be available in the apartment. All linen and towels are provided and Mrs Thuy, the manager and service provider will service the apartment daily, or every other day as desired.

There is internet in the apartment including WIFI. There is a local phone line.
There is also a guest directory that has been developed to help orient people during their stay with ideas of where to eat, shop, order take away and get transport. Mrs Thuy will normally meet people at the apartment to give them keys and explain about all necessary workings of the apartment. She can arrange for a car to collect people and take them to the apartment if necessary for a fee of $35.

Please note the apartment is in a residential area and therefore it does not operate like a hotel with reception all day and night so it is important to know when guests will arrive and leave. Generally Check in time is 2pm and check out time 12 noon but Thuy will try to be flexible depending on bookings.

The apartment offers a fantastic position, very comfortable setting, great views of the lake and facilitates self catering. The space is well big enough to hold small meetings or have a small dinner (if you need to cook in Hanoi). It is best suited for people who enjoy a little independence and do not require 24 hour service. While Mrs Thuy our friendly house keeper will aim to please, people may chose to be fully self sufficient. The cost is the same for serviced or self service.

For more pictures, see the album here :


For bookings or further enquiries please contact us at Velvetonthelake@gmail.com