|A customer looks at products in the Catherine Denoual Maison|
Catherine Denoual moved from Paris to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, without any plans or expectations, but sheâs since absorbed the burgeoning metropolisâ energy of growth and renewal like a sponge.
Her husband found work here in 1995, and at the age of 35, Catherine quit her job as a fashion editor to take a break and raise her children in HCMC. She says she was open to anything new and different and the city has given her just that.
âSaigon has been giving me a lot of energy, the city is so young… Everybody here wants to do something with life, wants to go somewhere with a purpose in mind. They canât stay at home doing nothing,â she says.
âThe energy of Saigon, its people and culture has carried me to do something special.â
At first she just began designing interior decorations for herself while spending time at home with her children. But then she decided to see how far she could take it.
The Parisian fashionista says the energy of Saigon, its people and culture, has prompted her to do something special
CATHERINE DENOUAL MAISON
2nd floor, Saigon Center Building
She designed her first collection and sent it to her friend in Paris to sell. It sold well and slowly but surely, her hobby turned into a full-fledged brand, with two Catherine Denoual Maison shops in HCMC and a new one in Russia.
âIt became a business partly because my friends pushed me, they like my products.â
She says that after years as an editor working with models and photographers, each with their own agenda, sheâs found it refreshing to work independently.
âI never thought of opening a business… but now I manage 100 employees at the workshops and I design as well.â
Borrowing on tradition
Crossing cultures has pushed Catherine to think from different points of view in her drive to understand people and adapt to life in Vietnam.
Catherine uses a lot of embroidery in her designs, a trait she said Vietnamese culture inspired her to incorporate into her work.
âVietnamese women make embroidery in such a nice way. They work with friends, family, all together in the same house. And the products are good,â she says.
âNow, more and more young people prefer working at shopping malls like Saigon Center, so we need to find ways to keep these kinds of jobs alive. They seem like theyâre already lost in France.â
Staying young in Vietnam
From the beginning, Catherine and her family took advantage of living in Asia. They chose to live in District 9, practically the countryside, for 6 years.
âWe were so glad our house was near a rice field where we could see farming, nice crops, chickens and buffalos around our house. We also had a swimming pool and a big garden there. It is such a privileged life for us in Vietnam.â
And Vietnam has provided the perfect balance of family-time and work for the expatriated Parisians. Catherine says Vietnam is a great place for her children.
âIn Saigon our children grow up against an international backdrop and meet friends from all over the world,â she says.
âIt is so safe and easy to get around here. My kids go to parties, meet friends on the weekends, and get taxis by themselves even though theyâre only 13 years old. They couldnât do these things in France.â
But with her daughter set to leave Vietnam to study abroad, and her son approaching college as well in two years, Catherine also looks forward to empty-nesting with her husband again.
Like a 25 year-old setting out for the first time, Catherine says sheâs ready for the next stage to begin, a ânew life,â as she calls it.
âMy husband and I will spend more time with each other traveling and weâll be a young couple again.â
Reported by To Van Nga