Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is a place where hand made goods flourish, especially when it comes to leather goods. More specifically shoes. I have never been to a city in South East Asia where there are so many locally made, artisan level shoes in one place. I have reviewed a pair of shoes from Fugashin Saigon earlier which I bought when I was there and right now I'd like to share with you another Made in Vietnam brand which I believe deserves more recognition. Dominique Saint Paul - Saigon.
Dominuque Saint Paul has a store located off Dong Khoi Street on 29 Dong Du, District 1, which is the upmarket part of HCMC. Here is where most of the luxury brands from the likes of Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin have their stores. The area has some nice, pre-war (not pre-Vietnam war, but much earlier) buildings and an overall environment that is more upmarket than just a few streets away. The thing with HCMC is that cross a few streets, and you are either in heaven or some third world city slum. Of course, with a city as large and as old as Ho Chi Minh, with its twenty or so million population, it is about expected.
Anyway, walk into Dominique Saint Paul's store and be amazed at the amount of shoes on display from one shoemaker. Then be even more amazed at the fact that over 70% of the shoes in the store has some form of patina handwork on them. It is incredible to absorb. Jaw dropping for a shoe enthusiast like me.
There are various styles of shoes. Their penny loafers caught my eye due to the shape of their lasts for this type of shoe. If I remember correctly, there are about three different types of loafer lasts. All with the elongated toe shape which I like with some being slightly wider or with a more chiseled toe design. The insides of their shoes are their signature turquoise colour and aside from the different shoe lasts, you can see there are various styles - from the penny loafer I am holding up in the photo above with the 'Vietnamese star' slit in the strip of leather instead of the usual rectangle slit you also see below. There is also the 'Vietnamese star' brogue pattern which you can see in the photo right at the start.
The patina-work you see on the shoes are actually sublime on most of the shoes. I would say that the hand colouring work is done carefully and to a high standard. The strokes are still natural but the strokes or brush work used is fine and evenly applied. Even the subtle highlights you see in the penny loafer below looks fine upon observation. Various types of patina are offered. You can see from the photos herein.
There are all sorts of shoes on sale. From loafers, oxfords, monk straps and moccasins. The mocs are of course moccasin type stitch down constructed. As are their driving shoes. Their loafers and oxfords are Goodyear Welted. The loafers as mentioned above have various lasts and are slightly elongated like those you see from better European brands (think Berluti). Their Oxfords have conservative styling with a very trad looking rounded toe (but one that grows on you actually). Quite a large difference in terms of design. I particularly like the tight shape of the shoe arch on their oxfords.
The patina on the leather (which is of good quality - soft, supple yet thick and substantial) is subtle to the outrageous but as mentioned above, one of the most carefully applied that I have seen (Even Fugashin Saigon are a little more brash in terms of application). And The sole is also nicely lacquered with closed channels (for the stitching). It is only slightly beveled but does not have a narrow waist. Well built, but without the added glamour that comes with having a fiddle waist sole and a pitched heel (like Fugashin Saigon - a plus point for me). That being said, you want a Dominique Saint Paul shoe for the patina hand work.
I especially love the loafers you see below. The fit was pretty good and I could wear them without socks (like how I usually wear my loafers). I did not get it because I had already bought a pair of shoes from Fugashin. I will most likely pick up a pair if and when I end up in Ho Chi Minh City again. I hope its soon.
But whilst I did not get anything from them, my wife did. She bought one of the tasseled clutches which have patina on them. The maroon one in the middle of the photo below.
A conservative black pair here. The overall shape of the last it pretty elegant from the photo. But when I first looked at them, they looked a tad bit conservative in terms of overall shape. But it does look good here.
They also do shoes without any patina on them. I suppose there are those who do not want them. But they still look good.
I must say that Ho Chi Minh City is a place where you should go if you are a shoe enthusiast living in South East Asia. Dominique Saint Paul should be one of those places that you need to end up if you are here.
One for the dandiest of all gentlemen
A nice pair of Chelsea boots with a very nice patinaThe patina on the pair on top is sublime.
Some of their other types of shoes- monk straps (in the dandiest colours ever), moccasin loafers, wholecut loafers and their oxfords.
Update: I have forgotten to add what they offer. They basically offer ready to wear and made to order. There is a room at the middle of the shop that caters for MTO. You try on a shoe for the fit and then you can choose what you want made. The ones in this room are not for sale. The choice of shoe style and hand finished patina or not is yours. Up front is where the RTW shoes are sold.