Hoi An’s place in history as a bustling seaport in the 16th to 18th centuries drew artisans from the length and breadth of Vietnam to its prosperous trading scene.
Today, the townspeople point to its rich history as to why these professions have survived and even thrived, with hundreds of workshops dotting the city, churning out tailored clothing, embroidery, leather goods, shoes and more.
Many of these workshops are open to visitors who can see skilled artisans at work, some using the same techniques as their predecessors centuries before them.
Nothing dominates the Hoi An cityscape quite like the dozens (or maybe even hundreds!) of tailor shops. These range from the tiny storefronts that rely on freelance tailors and seamstresses to conjure up beautiful custom garments to large glitzy shops with an attached workshop where permanent staff are on hand to execute your designs to perfection.
While it’s possible to get a very fast turnaround on tailoring, savvy buyers will tack on an extra day or two to allow for multiple fittings to make sure the garments hang exactly the way they like.
Closely related to tailoring is leatherwork. Larger needles are needed, of course, but many of the skills remain the same. Some shops even do both fabric and leather products. See our leather buying guide with all the insider tips you’ll need!
Embroidery work is extremely detail-oriented and time-consuming. The artisans of Hoi An spend months on a single piece, so fine, they resemble paintings more so than embroidery! If you find a shop that produces quality work, take down their contact info and commission a custom piece (perhaps based on a photo) for the next time you visit! Because the work doesn’t require much mobility, some workshops specialize in creating embroidery jobs for the disabled, a worthy way to make a living!
The Kim Bong Carpentry Village just outside of Hoi An is an excellent place to see busy hands in motion. Here, decorative panels with flowers and Chinese characters are handcrafted. You’ll also find furniture makers in the village.
A separate workshop in the same village specializes in statues of all kinds, including religious iconography where craftsmen can run with an idea from the customer, creating one of a kind pieces that are beautiful marriages between Man and Nature.
At the Thanh Ha Pottery Village, also just outside of Hoi An, a pair of incredibly steady 92-year-old hands forms the lip of a vase. The family has perfected a secret technique making the vases extremely durable, so much so that visitors are invited to stand on top of the seemingly delicate vases to show off their strength!
Modern technology has come to Hoi An. Here, a stitching machine enables craftsmen to complete a pair of shoes in less than 24 hours.
Some things, though, are still made the hard way. Here, an artisan hand cuts pieces of mother of pearl and assembles them into a countryside scene, ready to be inlaid into a decorative plate.
In the heart of the ancient town of Hoi An, numerous crafts workshops create beautiful jewelry, souvenirs and other products. Here, silver is being hand-hammered onto a bowl.
The next time you’re in Hoi An, notice all the busy pairs of hands at work making the most beautiful of products!