Van Lam, long famous throughout Vietnam for its embroidery, is now in the Trang An Complex, a UNESCO-recognized heritage site. The embroidery craft was first practiced here 700 years ago to supply clothing to the royal court and decorations for temples, pagodas, and communal houses.
In 1910, during the French colonial period, Van Lam villagers Dinh Ngoc Henh and Dinh Ngoc Xoan learned the lace craft from French artisans and brought it to the village, giving Van Lam a second craft and marking a turning point for the village.
Vu Thanh Lam, a local artisan, says: “Van Lam embroidery has been handed down through generations. Through historical ups and downs, the craft has been maintained. Its products are now available around the world, and are particularly popular in Europe and Northern Asia.”
Using thin colorful threads, dexterous local artisans make embroidery products that are sophisticated and beautiful masterpieces of art.
Dinh Thi Loan carefully preserves the embroidery techniques of her predecessors.
“Three generations of my family have been involved in this craft. My children are doing the same. We have passed on to them the ancient patterns and traditional techniques of dashing colored threads to make a picture in silk, harmonizing colors while keeping the picture surface smooth. In zigzag embroidery, we show them how to use the needle correctly,” Loan added.
While Loan is famous for her embroidery techniques, Hong Yen is better known for her lace patterns. She led a movement to combine embroidery and lace to fashion dresses, shirts, bags, and shoes.
Van Lam’s embroidered products have carved out a niche in competitive markets like the US, Germany, Japan, and France with their high quality and diversity of designs. Their bedspreads, pillow covers, curtains, wall hangings, handkerchiefs, and kimonos are embellished with delicately embroidered designs.
Van Lam native Dinh Thi Mai has a showroom displaying her embroidery and lace products in Hanoi’s Hang Gai Street: “Vietnamese people learned the lace craft from French people but our techniques and designs have improved, making them uniquely attractive. Many Western customers have praised our products as even more beautiful than the samples. That makes us very proud.”
Van Lam currently has 9 embroidery enterprises and workshops and some 700 households making or selling embroidery products, annually earning nearly US$4 million.
Van Lam offers package tours to introduce tourists to the local scenic spots and embroidery craft. Along the road to the Tam Coc – Bich Dong tourist complex, which attracts millions of visitors each year, shops are set up to display and sell local embroidery products. Depictions of the Vietnamese countryside, charming Vietnamese girls, and flowers are the most popular embroidery patterns.