Swedish designer Sofia Holt recently left Vietnam after 7 years in the country. In a recent post by Swedish Embassy in Hanoi, she talks about some of her highlights during her time in Vietnam, impressions and thoughts about similarities and differences between Sweden and Vietnam, and what she misses most from Vietnam.
Sofia Holt came to Vietnam in 2014 to design furniture and decoration for a company with stores in Saigon and Hanoi. After a while, she started freelancing with projects in fashion, illustration, concepts, furniture and artificial objects. On the side, she held creative workshops for adults and last year for the Swedish Embassy in Hanoi on Pippi Longstocking’s 75th anniversary.
“Saigon is passionate about entrepreneurship and business development, which fostered my creativity and motivated me to take quick action, not get caught up in over-thinking,” says Sofia Holt.
Some of her highlights in Vietnam include a concept for giving new life to waste pants from the German fashion brand DAWN, exhibited at Berlin Fashion week 2019. 17 illustrations that show sustainable travel for EXO Travel. A collection with Vietnamese LIBÉ to motivate young women to a balanced lifestyle. Illustration of the bilingual children’s book VN-ENG ‘The Lost Sandal’, and perhaps her most popular work; The BABES collection, which is a collection to support women to enjoy themselves.
Now back in her home country Sweden, there are things she really appreciates about the country in the north. “It feels cold in Sweden even at + 15C, but it is fantastic to be back and rediscover the Swedish wildlife and all the habits I forgot, meet family, listen and speak Swedish, dust off autumn clothes and sleep with a thick blanket without a noisy AC, says Sofia Holt.
Sofia Hold hopes that she can keep the way of thinking she has from Vietnam in Sweden. “I have learned to set standards for my design processes, but also the importance of flexibility because each project is different. Vietnam has allowed me to test many different subjects in design, to find my way. I have seen different living standards, a different way of governing a country, a different spiritual faith and a different outlook on life in general. All this knowledge is excellent for me as a designer, whose main task is to solve problems or create useful concepts for not only Swedish people. ”
Before returning to Sweden, Sofia Holt started a project called “Painting Against Covid-19” where she painted 16 everyday items under quarantine in her apartment and auctioned them off online to donate the money to charities that help with the pandemic. “We raised 30,900,000 VND and it was nice to show how art and design can help societies in crisis.
It was also a way to stay healthy during the lockdown. Hopefully it inspires creativity at home by recycling old objects instead of buying new ones, says Sofia Holt.
Sofia Hold says about the most dominant differences between Sweden and Vietnam, “Sweden is quiet, slow, calm,” reasonable “, equal, democratic and expensive with the dominant design expression” less is more “. Compared to Saigon’s noisy, fast, hot, energetic, eclectic, family-oriented society with larger economic gaps and design expressions is more ‘over the top’. Both countries are kind, caring and helpful in emergencies, and both people are quite shy. ”
“After seven years in the Asian country, there are things she is missing. “I miss my organized home studio set-up and easy access to design materials. I miss the unexpected inspiration I got daily just by going outside, facing Saigon’s living reality. It woke me up from the introverted world of work. I also miss the multicultural environment, she says.
About her future plans, Sofia Holt says, “Now I hope to be able to establish myself as a freelance designer in Sweden. However, design concepts delivered by CAD files can still be sent anywhere. I contact stores to sell my designs and translate ‘The Lost Sandal’ for publication in Sweden. My mother and I have also been asked to have a collaborative exhibition in the Swedish city of Säffle. She is also a craftsman and has a ceramics workshop. I am eager to start working with new designers for my own brand but also open to collaborations around the world. I’m excited to see what comes next! Says Sofia Holt.
Sofia Holt’s BABES collection is available in Saigon and Hanoi. According to the Swedish embassy in Hanoi, she also plans to return to Vietnam at some point, but until then you can reach and follow her through here.