Thanh Nien

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Foreigners in HCMC settle into fashion business
A clothing shop run by Nigerian men in HCMC’s Tan Phu District. Women like the shop because of its original style.
A group of Nigerians have found a stylish new niche in Ho Chi Minh City.

When he started his fashion shop in Ho Chi Minh City two years ago, Kevin said, he had a hard time establishing good business relationships in the area because of his color.

Many garment factories were not used to doing business with black people like Kevin and his younger brother Don, he said.

As a result the brothers often spent entire days looking for clothes and shoes to sell in their shop but came home empty handed.

Kevin said he left his home in Nigeria three years ago to be a worker in a Vietnamese garment factory but then he wanted to open a fashion shop of his own in suburban Tan Phu District.

His boss and some Vietnamese friends helped him set up the business by applying for a business license and introducing them to local suppliers, Kevin recalled.

A shoe factory said a lot of African foreigners like Don and Kevin run shops in Tan Phu District now.

They had slowly built up business partnerships with many local garment factories, he said.

Aki, another Nigerian who travels back and fourth to his home country for his business, said most local factories were now willing to supply to him.

He said at first some Vietnamese were afraid of people like him which made business difficult.

But now their businesses had taken off.

Kevin and Don’s Thanh Le shop, for example, attracts many city women.

“I came with many friends when the shop was new, partly because we were curious but also because most of the items were original,” said Nguyen Thi Thu in Tan Binh District.

“Now I’m a frequent customer.”

The Nigerian brothers said they couldn’t open their shop in the city center as the shop rents were too high.

Shop rent in Tan Phu District was only about VND4 million (US$236), so they could keep their prices competitive, Don said.

Kevin said he and his brother often used Google to search for suppliers of cheap beautiful clothes.

They ordered most of their products from foreign countries, including Nigeria, and sold them for just VND30,000-100,000 ($1.80-5.90) apiece, they said.

After two years in the shop, Don and Kevin said they understood local fashion styles and trends.

Don said sometimes he even goes out looking on his motorbike to find a dress in the customer’s size.

Kevin said he was happy that he had a place to live and a shop of his own.

“I feel like I’m living in my own country,” he said, adding that Vietnam would soon become his second home.

Source: Tuoi Tre

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