Vietnamese designers heading for London Design Biennale with help from ULSB

Posted by pm357 at Aug 07, 2018 03:10 PM |
ULSB academics helping Vietnamese arts and crafts designers present their work at The 2018 London Design Biennale.
Vietnamese designers heading for London Design Biennale with help from ULSB

Dr Marta Gasparin

University of Leicester School of Business (ULSB) academics are helping shine a light on the work of Vietnamese designers at the 2018 London Design Biennale from 4-23 September. The Design Biennale is devoted to the theme, Emotional States. Taking over the entirety of Somerset House, it will explore big questions and ideas about sustainability, migration, pollution, energy, cities, and social equality.

A highlight on the global cultural calendar, the Biennale will see some of the world’s most exciting and ambitious designers, innovators and cultural bodies gather in the capital to celebrate the universal power of design and explore the role of design in our collective futures. A unique exhibition presenting the best design in the world from established and emerging designers, architects, scientists, writers and artists.

Visitors will enjoy engaging and interactive installations, innovations, artworks and proposed design solutions - all in an immersive, inspiring and entertaining tour of the world. Over 40 countries, cities and territories will reveal how design influences our emotions.

Dr Marta Gasparin, Lecturer in Design and Innovation Management at ULSB, and colleagues at ULSB have been working to connect designers and social and creative enterprises with female artisans and craft makers’ communities in Vietnam, promoting social innovation, fair and ethical collaborations, and an appreciation of cultural heritage as part of the British Council Vietnam’s Crafting Futures programme.

Crafting Futures supports the future of craft around the globe. This British Council programme strengthens economic, social and cultural development through learning and access. Crafting Futures’ projects support practices and people, through research, collaboration and education.

The Crafting Futures project in Vietnam designs and facilitates collaborative works of young designers and entrepreneurs with craft communities across the country. The project makes positive steps towards supporting women and girls in local communities in the revitalising of their craft traditions. Watch the video to find out more.

The exhibition will allow the chance for the designers they have been working with to travel to the UK to showcase their work at the Design Biennale.

ULSB is supporting this cutting-edge interdisciplinary and beyond the edges exhibition, which re-conceptualises what design is in an emerging country. The University has supported the research team involved in the project (led by Dr Gasparin, in collaboration with Dr Martin Quinn and Professor Christophe Schinckus) to research creativity and innovation in Vietnam.

Since 2017 Dr Gasparin has conducted various exploratory studies in Vietnam funded by the British Council on the role and impact of the creative industries in this country, and she has been working in partnership with VIRI (Vietnam Rural Industries Research and Development Institute) to train female entrepreneurs working with ethnic slow design, in partnership with Work Room Four and Kilomet 109. She has studied the potential of these organisations for transforming the country, protecting heritage and working towards a sustainable future. Through this curatorial practice, Work Room Four and ULSB are investigating the emotional state of Vietnam as a changing Country.

Dr Gasparin explains why it so important to share the work of contemporary Vietnamese designers: “Vietnam’s story has long been told within the narrow brackets of a particular take on history and long been gazed at from a select number of vantage points. It is pieced together by many little stories, anecdotal evidence and spotlights directed at clichés.

“To reverse that we want to show the complexity that is contemporary Vietnam so that a more complete picture can emerge. Vietnam is a country with a heritage of working with your hands and creating to make things work. Design follows a social need, things that need fixing get fixed and have done for centuries. Now the aesthetics are catching up and we are showcasing these elements coming together in contemporary creative output.”

USLB is working with business sponsors NashTechDragon Capital, New World Fashion GroupAcumen Air Cargo and the Vietnam-UK Network to help fund the two exhibitions as part of the installation at the London Design Biennale.

Dominic Scriven, Chairman of Dragon Capital, added: "Vietnam has been our focus for the last 24 years and helping to encourage the sustainable economic development of Vietnam market is part of our long-term commitment. We deeply appreciate the great efforts of the British Council of Vietnam, the University of Leicester School of Business and the Vietnam Rural Industries Institute to promote the future of craft industries in Vietnam.

"Taking Vietnam to the London Design Biennale is a wonderful initiative that fits well with one of our core values, which is to foster creativity. It is a great pleasure and honour for Dragon Capital to sponsor this event. We believe there is a need to preserve Vietnamese traditional crafts. They not only help to generate economic opportunities for female weavers. They also promote environmentally friendly production methods with their use of high-quality natural materials, and their recent move into and contemporary design trends, which can lead to sustainable fashion."

Vietnam’s design history

Vietnam has a heritage of craftwork and people using their hands to make things work and function - with a reliance on the individual maker, not the machine, for results. Design in Vietnam traditionally follows a social need; people repair or modify objects and products as a necessity and also look at improvements that can be made through this necessity. This has been the case for centuries. Now as Vietnam transforms as a country, the function of design is being joined by an aspiration for aesthetics.

The country’s contemporary creative output sees traditional crafts married with a new aesthetic, sustainability and a fresh design identity. People are no longer designing solely for function and need, but also for want. The London Design Biennale will help Vietnamese designers showcase how these elements are coming together.

Vietnamese design today is immensely associated with its heritage, designers are increasingly utilising references to their past in an effort to create their own identity – rooted in tradition but at home in a contemporary world where good design speaks both to the universal and the local.

The Vietnamese pavilion (exhibition) seeks to address the issue that there is no global recognition or knowledge of what Vietnamese design looks and feels like today. The Design Biennale will help showcase how young designers look forward by way of reclaiming their past as their country transforms. This installation is an invitation to pause and reflect on this idea.

The designers

The three designers, exhibiting at the Design Biennale, maintain their cultural roots in their approach to work. Their exhibition will be curated in a way to highlight this overriding cultural theme and the unity of their work – being at once an extension and part of one another, showcasing the complexity of the Vietnamese identity today, a unity made up of diversity. The pavilion will host the works of:

Fashion Designer Thao Vu of Kilomet 109 who is elevating traditional fabric making to contemporary couture; Multidisciplinary designer Giang Nguyen who is trawling through past decades to unearth patterns, fonts and colours that only get better with age and contemporary subversion; Visual artist and VJ Le Thanh Tung (Crazy Monkey) who inserts the symbolism of yesteryears into multimedia genres.

Also involved will be: Designer and curator Claire Driscoll who has been collaborating with contemporary Vietnamese artists and designers and promoting their work at the art and design studio Work Room Four which she co-founded in Hanoi in 2013; Architect and creative real estate developer Doan Ky Thanh has been instrumental in Vietnam’s bid to participate in the London Design Biennale.

The pavilion

Room One will house a laboratory (‘The Lab’) of natural dye techniques and processes, a visually engaging manifestation of the dialogue between traditional Vietnamese craft communities, environmentally and culturally sustainable practices, and contemporary textile design. This dialogue reflects a new way of thinking about traditional practices, one that explores the tension between experimentation and rote mastery.

As Vietnam struggles to maintain its rich history of craft communities, the Lab seeks to demonstrate the need for innovation and creativity in the service of cultural preservation and sustainability. The project will present the full creative cycle of Fashion Designer Thao Vu’s textile techniques at Kilomet 109, broken down into its component parts, before they are then reincorporated, and reimagined, into new kinds of sustainable textiles.

Room Two will display an interactive video installation to showcase the processes involved in the fibre lab. As design moves further to a more digital and sometimes sterile practice this process room openly engages the viewer with the tactile subversive elements of making involved in sustainable design processes.

Naturally dyed fabric hangs in layers around the room, video mapping of the natural dye processes used to create the fabric are projected throughout the second room. The processes are overlaid with investigations into Vietnamese, language and type, playing on the diacritics and the tonal uniqueness of the Vietnamese language. Process sounds will follow the projection.

The viewer will be able to change the projection through an interactive device the display will use type, and colour and texture of indigenous Vietnamese processes and languages to define emotional states and let the viewer immerse themselves in our perception of these emotional states through, texture, colour, process and unknown language and type. Mirroring the complexity of human emotion through the elements of making and language as emotional identity.



The Crafting Futures project in Vietnam concluded with the Craft and Design Challenge exhibition, showcasing collaborative works of the 20 young designers and design students. The project made positive steps towards supporting women and girls in local communities in the revitalising of their craft traditions through connections with contemporary designers and new market opportunities. Watch the video to find out more.



ULSB aims to foster social responsibility and social engagement. It aims to make a difference in the world, through a commitment to engaged, creative and socially responsible approaches to business, management and economics. ULSB aims to provide a collaborative environment, challenge assumptions and innovate for a brighter, more inclusive and sustainable future.

Dr Gasparin is currently conducting research into creativity and innovation in Vietnam as a visiting academic at RMIT and the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City. Dr Gasparin has been working with the British Council to empower women in Vietnam through a Craft and Design challenge that aided the development of creative social enterprise and design-led skills for female artisans and designers and also to create the first ever Vietnam creative industries directory.

The University of Leicester is also represented by Dr Christophe Schinckus and Dr Quinn who are supporting this interdisciplinary exhibition with an interest to re-conceptualise what design is in an emerging country. Dr William Green, Associate Professor in Innovation, Operations and Knowledge Management, whose work in ergonomics focuses on the needs of the human in the interaction between people, technology and the environment in order to design for human well-being is also part of the team alongside Mike Saren, Professor of Marketing, whose research interest lies in marketing culture and heritage, human-objects relations, sustainability and marketing technology.

The Lab

The Lab will be constructed over an indigo pool integrating all steps, raw materials, and traditional techniques, that are used in the textile production. The result will bring the audience a close up view of sustainable textile design process from the inside out.

The audience’s journey will be fully immersive and commence with a visual representation of each step of creating natural dye pigments. From seeds - to plants - to raw fermented form - to refined dye powder - to experimental textile samples & ultimately the final textile designs.

Business Donors


Part of Harvey Nash Group, NashTech is a global technology, consulting and outsourcing company. Services include digital strategy consulting, delivering software solutions and streamlining business processes. Global operations in the UK, Ireland, Europe, USA, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan enables NashTechto go where theirclients are, ensuring they have the technology services they need to support strategic business growth.

Nick Lonsdale, NashTech CEO comments, “There is no doubt that art stimulates and challenges us on many levels. We have many aspiring artists at NashTech and to be part of bringing Vietnamese art to the UK is exciting. We are delighted to be supporting such an innovative initiative.”

Dragon Capital

Founded in 1994, Dragon Capital Group (DCG) is a Vietnam-focused financial institution with long-standing investment experience in the country and the surrounding Indochina region. DCG has been instrumental in introducing international standards of corporate governance and professionalism as part of its long-term focus and commitment to the sustainable development of Vietnam’s financial infrastructure.

DCG has established Vietnam’s first domestic asset management company Viet Fund Management (VFM) and holds a 30% managing stake in Ho Chi Minh City Securities Company together with the Ho Chi Minh City government. DCG’s own shareholders include management, employees, and former employees. The company has a head count of 100 in teams focusing on origination, portfolio management and research, fund accounting and operations, legal, and client services.

DCG, together with its affiliates, manage over US$ 3 billion in assets across public equities, private capital, fixed income, clean development and real estate. In addition to tailor made solutions for institutions and family offices, there are five public funds available to investors.

DCG maintains offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bangkok, Hong Kong (where it is SEC registered), and the UK (where it is FCA registered).

New World Fashion Group

New World Fashion Group is one of the leading suppliers of quality ladies-wear to a worldwide market for more than 25 years. Their mission: To be the foremost designer and manufacturer of quality formal clothing in the Far East, maintaining control of the process from concept through to delivery.

Acumen Air Cargo

Acumen Air Cargo is one of the UK’s leading forwarders into Vietnam. They have access to fantastic rates on 4x weekly direct flights from London to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam-UK Network

Vietnam-UK Network is an umbrella group bringing together organisations and individuals with shared interests in Vietnam to promote Vietnam – UK cooperation across the broad spectrum of the bilateral relationships (including trade, education, trade unions, your professionals and cultural activities) to enhance understanding and friendship between the citizens and institutions of the two countries.