Custom-fit skirt ordering platform Rita & Phill is giving women in the western world access khổng lồ bespoke fashion at affordable prices
While bespoke fashion has been waning for years in Hong Kong, it’s alive and well in Ho chi Minh City. Entrepreneur Linh bầu wants lớn bring the aging trade online so women in developed markets can order handcrafted garments from Vietnam without paying as much as they would at home.
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"We are bringing this industry online and to a market that’s never had the service. It’s hard to lớn convince Asians that we’re not just your Auntie on the street corner. But it’s an easier sell khổng lồ the US and UK market because bespoke there is so much more expensive,” she says.
Focussed only on skirts, Rita & Phill wants to lớn solve the problem of having a closet full of clothes and nothing khổng lồ wear.
How does it work? The user chooses a skirt design, then enters in three basic measurements (waist, hips, thighs) and those numbers get plugged into a design system along with their height. The skirts then get hand-cut và stitched at Rita và Phill’s in-house studio.
The vision is to give women access to custom patterns for any body type at a reasonable price point. According khổng lồ Thai, a skirt on Rita và Phil averages about US$150 và is made from cốt tông blend materials.
“We use techniques that are essentially really old school, classic techniques that have been completely obliterated by the mass production industry because they’re trying lớn cut costs.”
To put things into perspective, Linh pits Vietnam against other Asian manufacturing hubs. “If you want 10,000 items made, you go to lớn China. If you want t-shirts & knitwear, go lớn Bangladesh. But if you want couture, you go khổng lồ Vietnam,” she says.
“We’re based out of Vietnam, we have in-house production and our staff are highly skilled — our cost structure is lower than most companies based in developed countries. Because we sell directly khổng lồ customers, we’re able khổng lồ cut out the middleman and keep the costs down,” says Thai and notes that while other countries focus on mass production, Vietnam is still dedicated to bespoke.
Backed by an all-woman team, Rita and Phil is also kept in the family with Thai’s mother và sister pitching in as Office Manager and sale Manager respectively.
Thai was previously a Director at DFJ Vina
Capital, one of Vietnam’s largest venture capital firms. After getting married in 2012, she came up with the idea to lớn give brides a way to mix and match elements lớn create a custom-fit dream dress.
Thai says in our interview that she’s pivoted through many startup ideas in the past few years.
Starting off with wedding dresses, she then switched to lớn ready-to-wear under the Stitch Appeal moniker with new products added every couple months.
By 2015, the startup had an entire fashion line under the rationale that no one would want to lớn go into a brick-and-mortar store that sells only one item. But as the idea wasn’t thoroughly tested, thai says she felt at the time they were losing focus. Eventually, she pared back to only skirts.
“You have so many ideas when you first start & it’s always so tempting to lớn go off your theories. You’re supposed khổng lồ test & fail fast. Being based in Vietnam, it was hard khổng lồ get true customer feedback from the US, so we essentially went off our own theories,” she said.
Her advice khổng lồ new entrepreneurs in the testing stages? “You need critical mass of people asking for something specific before you make a decision. I would say it would be 200 – 300 people in a similar demographic. Now, focussing on one hàng hóa will truly help us lớn define it.”
Rita và Phill is currently running an Indiegogo chiến dịch and they’re 42 per cent of the way to their US$10,000 goal.
Many people say that if you’re going to lớn work in Vietnam, you should bởi vì it while you’re young. Linh bầu thinks otherwise.
How did your love affair with Vietnam grow overtime?My first visit khổng lồ Vietnam was in 1993. At the time, bicycles swarmed the streets. I came again during college as a tourist. Both times I was too young and naive khổng lồ see the opportunity. I was still addicted khổng lồ the concept of the American dream—rising through the ranks và wearing a suit khổng lồ work at an office that was at least 50 floors up.
After reaching that level, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted after all. Working in investment banking, you spend a lot of time watching your ngân hàng account go up, while wondering what else life has lớn offer. In what little spare time I had, I read a lot of articles on how khổng lồ be happy. One of the things that resonated with me was that if you vày something you truly love, then it won’t feel like work. The problem was, lượt thích most people in their 20’s, I didn’t know what I truly loved!
Growing up, I never associated my personal or professional life with Vietnam. I would have laughed if someone had told me that I would spend the next 8 years living và working in Vietnam. Và I have found this lớn be true for numerous overseas Vietnamese in Vietnam. For many, the decision to lớn come to lớn Vietnam long-term often results from a random experience that helps them understand this path was meant khổng lồ be.
So what was your random experience that led you here?After eight years of working at a startup and in investment banking, and two years in business school, I wanted the chance lớn work on the venture capital side in a new city. I was also itching for a move abroad which was when I noticed a former classmate was working at a fund in Vietnam. And coincidentally, there was an opening in their venture capital group.
I couldn’t believe it. Here was an opportunity khổng lồ follow my professional dreams, while also fulfilling my need to explore Vietnam. Fate was telling me that it was time to lớn take the plunge! Three phone interviews later, I gave notice and packed my bags. I didn’t even know what my coworkers looked like or where I would live in Ho chi Minh City.
As a woman, have you faced any challenges working in Vietnam?
I spent the first 10 years of my career in the US. I learned what khổng lồ talk about, how to lớn phrase things, và how lớn hang with “the boys” (since most of my colleagues were male). Và most of the women I worked with were very similar lớn me. Loud, opinionated, & not afraid khổng lồ state their positions. I’m not a very “girly” girl, so I felt quite at ease in that environment.
When I got khổng lồ Vietnam, I not only had khổng lồ learn the cultural differences, but also how lớn behave lượt thích a woman as defined by Vietnamese culture.
Within the first week at work I was told that I am too loud, I walk like a man (I had just spent 2 years living in NYC, and any New Yorker will tell you that walking fast is the only way to get around town), và that I’m too opinionated.
I initially fought the assimilation, clinging khổng lồ my American self-righteousness. But over the years, I’ve realized that one way isn’t better than the other way—it’s just different. Và the most successful people are the ones who can adapt to any situation.
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So now when I speak English, I’m the same rambunctious person with a firm handshake. & when I speak Vietnamese, I’m sweet, demure, & shyly wave goodbye. However, a big, genuine smile transcends all cultures, so that is the common thread across all my “personalities”.
Don’t get me wrong, Vietnamese women are not pushovers. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s just that the style of communication is different. And for any relationship khổng lồ work well, both sides have khổng lồ communicate on the same wavelength. And since we live in Vietnam, the Vietnamese wavelength is the way to lớn go.
What’s your main focus right now?Building up Rita Phil. We make custom tailored skirts. We design and produce in Vietnam, và target customers in the US và other developed countries. We’ve created our own pattern system that enables us khổng lồ create the perfect fit for women of any shape và size. We’ve worked with women from sizes 00 to 24, so we know our body shapes!
Our goal is to vì chưng one thing, and do it extremely well. We are building a very loyal following. Many of our customers have returned for several additional skirts & are telling their friends. We vày plan on expanding our sản phẩm line in the future, but for now, we’re happy creating awesome butts for women around the world.
The name Rita Phil comes from the movie Groundhog Day. In the film, the main character Phill is stuck in a time loop & experiences the same day over & over again.
That’s how we feel about women’s fashion. Women wake up every morning, stare into their closets and say, “I have nothing khổng lồ wear.” We want to get women out of that loop và solve their “groundhog day closet problem” by giving them clothes that fit perfectly & make them look great.
What are some nice-to-knows about Rita Phil?We work with women from sizes 00-24: That’s a very broad range that most brands bởi not have experience with. Our all-female team understands the struggles of women trying to find clothes lớn fit their quality bodies.Perfect Fit Guarantee: We offer a 100% happiness guarantee và provide a full refund (or a remake) if you’re not happy with the product. We’ll also pay for shipping both ways.Empower women: For all our female customers we help them embrace their curves. & for our all-female staff we believe in training and teaching. Our tailor does HTML, the accountant does CSS, and our fashion designer does social media.
Is there ever a right time for an overseas Vietnamese lớn look at starting something in Vietnam?As a young professional in America, you’ll have more access khổng lồ mentorship. During the first one or two years out of college, you’re learning the skills & work ethic that you’ll need and take with you for the rest of your career.
When you’re in an American startup or corporate environment, you see people leading projects, executing, and working hard. That’s normal. Nobody has khổng lồ tell you to come in early, lớn volunteer, to lớn help with other projects, or to lớn stay late when the rest of team is there. Those are unspoken rules that you’ll carry with you into the future.
People in their early 20’s should be in America so they build a strong work ethic, & more importantly, so they can learn the hard skills necessary to effectively execute projects. Having at least a few years of rigorous training in America is ideal.
And let me make sure khổng lồ put emphasis on “rigorous”. Just because you have a job that happens to be based in the US does not mean you are learning all that you can. Find a job where you are challenged. You should be doing things where you secretly fear you have no idea what you’re doing.
Get your ass kicked, then come to Vietnam with real experience and skills that people will recognize you for.
Which restaurants & cafes can someone find you in Vietnam? Specifically in Ho bỏ ra Minh City?
Between my family và leading the company, I lượt thích to order-in.
But, my latest obsession is with Juic
Elixir. It’s a health brand started by an awesome woman who got her masters in nutrition from Cornell. She has created her own juice recipes that are all natural & sugar free. I drink 2 or 3 bottles a day. It prevents me from snacking on chocolate, which is my biggest guilty pleasure.
If I’m being naughty, I will go for “Gong Cha” và one of their coconut foam drinks combined with 4-5 toppings (go big or stay in bed!). I also love the hot chocolate from Maison Marou.
When friends are visiting, I’ll take them lớn Cuc Gach quan tiền restaurant. It’s kitschy, you feel like you’re in a quaint traditional Vietnamese home, and the food is great.
Tell us one memorable story from your experience growing up in the United States as a Vietnamese-American.
I attended high school in Victorville, a small town between Los Angeles và Vegas. My concept of being Asian was blurred. In Victorville, there were 30 Asians in the entire school.
When I enrolled at USC, I thought it would be a good opportunity khổng lồ meet more Asian people so I joined an Asian sorority. One of the sorority sisters asked me, “So, what Asian are you?” I remember being a bit confused và thinking to myself, what bởi you mean?
I think I’m Vietnamese. But I speak Chinese too. Am I Chinese or Vietnamese? I had never actually explicitly asked my mom.
At the age of 18, I learned for the first time that I was 100% genetically Chinese. Growing up, my Asian identity was a question that was never asked. I spoke Vietnamese in the house, but was genetically Chinese. Race was never a big deal. I was Asian, our neighbors were Mexican, I had Armenian và Filipino friends. Skin màu sắc never played into the equation.
Who should I talk to lớn next?Crystal Lam: She has knows the ins and outs of her family business và is now leading it into the next phase of growth. She is a great mã sản phẩm businesswoman!
Julie Huynh: She is relatively new to Vietnam và has made a big impact on the growth of Rita Phil. She offers the chất lượng perspective of the latest cohort of Viet Kieus—both learning from and teaching her local Vietnamese colleagues.
Huyen Tran: She leads the the publishing và business development for Sentifi và also runs marathons for fun. She’s a great person who works hard and plays hard too.
Caroline Le: She launched Juic
Elixir and is a champion of living a healthy lifestyle in Vietnam.