Field Notes:
Vietnam is unstoppable

Date: 27 Nov 2020
Location: Saigon & Hanoi, Vietnam
By: Felix Ng (Anonymous)
Between November and December 2018, I spent 15 days in Saigon and Hanoi with Ken Smith of Studioriley working on the research for UNIQLO’s go-to-market strategy for their first store openings in Vietnam. To navigate the cities, we also worked with a local fixer, Ha Dao and documentary photographer, Linh Pham.

This was the seventh UNIQLO City Report Anonymous worked on since 2015, and the third in Southeast Asia we were involved in, following the fieldwork done for the launch of the Singapore and Manila flagship stores.

And it was also the most challenging.

Vietnam is not an easy place to figure out. The country is not willing to be known as just one thing or to give up what she is about easily. For over a century, many have tried, failed, and tried again to gain control of and influence it. But she has fought back; enduring wars, uncertainty, and political change.

We interviewed a newspaper editor, artist, dancer, professor, student, entrepreneur, chef, fashion designer, photographer, footballer, and more. Throughout the interviews, we heard people talking about their pride for Vietnam — how the country overcame adversity and prospered, and is now one of the leading and fastest-growing economies of Asia. This has been made possible entirely through their own sheer hard work and a resilient, competitive, and independent spirit.

The country moves with relentless speed and an unforgiving attitude in its progress. The people are resourceful, hardworking, fearless, and highly adaptable. They are unstoppable and whether you like it or not, they demand respect. One thing is for sure — with 70% of the population under the age of 35, the next decade of creativity and entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia will be from countries like Vietnam.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

Here are photos from my time in the city.

*The first UNIQLO stores in Vietnam opened successfully in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on 6 December 2019 and in Hanoi on 6 March 2020.