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飛越向前 yu wear it well 香港設計師余倩儀對時尚的激情在越南意外 獲得釋放,她於1990年代末創立Ipa-Nima品 牌,現已成為最具原創性的亞洲品牌之一

Hongkonger Christina Yu’s passion for fashion found an unlikely place to flourish in late-1990s Vietnam. Today her fashion house Ipa-Nima is one of the most original boutique brands in Asia text connla stokes

香港出生的余倩儀(Christina Yu) 曾表示不是她選擇河內,而是河內 選擇了她。她在河內足足住了16年, 直至去年才移居胡志明市。其實當初 她不是很想去,她原是香港的執業律 師,當她的丈夫(亦是同事)被調往 河內後,幾經考慮,她才決定要為愛 相隨。 「浪漫的說法是我為愛情離開 香港,」現於西貢安家的余倩儀說。 「事實是他親自回港接我過去,因為 他不肯定我真的會去越南。」今日 的河內及胡志明市到處可見到型格餐 廳、咖啡室及畫廊,本土時尚界也逐 漸與國際接軌。在1995年,越南因 經濟及政治長時間受孤立,沒有任何 都市化建設,美國於1994年才解除 對越南的貿易禁運。 一個初來甫到的女子,有什麼 可做呢?余倩儀不想繼續留在法律界 發展,決定重投時尚的懷抱,因為那 是她的最愛。在1990年代她曾兼任 香港《號外》雜誌時尚編輯,甚至自 費到巴黎及米蘭出席時裝周活動,又

Ipa-Nima春夏系列2013的靈感 來自名著《大亨小傳》 For spring/summer 2013 IpaNima takes its inspiration from one of the world's great love stories, The Great Gatsby

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The Hong Kong-born designer Christina Yu once said she didn’t choose Hanoi — the Vietnamese capital chose her. She called the city home for 16 years before relocating to Ho Chi Minh City last year. Not that she had been spirited away willingly; a practising litigator in Hong Kong, her husband (and colleague) was transferred to Hanoi by their law firm, and so she followed. Well, eventually… “The romantic version is that I left Hong Kong for love,” says Christina, now happily ensconced in Saigon. “[In truth] he had to come to Hong Kong to ‘escort’ me, as he wasn’t sure I’d come.” Suffice it to say that she found leaving Hong Kong tough. Today, both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are peppered with chic and cosmopolitan eateries, cafés and galleries, and the local fashion scene has a much worldlier disposition. But there was nothing remotely urbane about Vietnam back in 1995. The country was emerging from a long period of economic and political isolation, and the US only lifted a trade embargo in 1994. So what’s a relocated girl to do? Uninterested in pursuing a legal career, Christina returned to her first love — fashion. Moonlighting in the ’90s as fashion editor for City Magazine in Hong Kong, she had paid


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Ipa-Nima最新系列重現 1920年代的浮華風尚 Ipa-Nima's latest collection re-creates the styles of the hedonistic 1920s

試過在無數晚上埋首看幻燈片,找尋 最新的潮流趨勢。因此她很快便察 覺到越南的刺繡師無所不在,「當時 越南並沒有人專門設計及生產飾物, 我認為這將成為時尚界必不可少的配 件,」余倩儀說。 「事實證明我眼光 正確。」 概念很簡單:就是將她對設計 的獨特天分與傳統工匠的超凡技藝相 結合。初期她為一些國際知名品牌 如上海灘、G.O.D.及ANTEPRIMA(安 蒂佩瑪)等開發獨立品牌。1997年 Ipa-Nima就在一間狹窄的兩層房子誕 生,她只有一部電話、一部傳真機及 一台手提電腦。余倩儀憶述說:「連 冷氣機都沒有,真的是血汗工廠!」 在越南創業充滿挑戰。「無論是 營商概念、作業守則,一切都是從基 礎做起。」余倩儀說。 「在外地生活 過後,你會更懂得珍惜辦事竭盡全力 的香港人。」2003年,除河內及胡 志明市外,Ipa-Nima也於東京、新加 坡、馬來西亞、毛里求斯及華沙開設 分店。她的丈夫亦辭去律師工作,正 式加入Ipa-Nima。看來余倩儀並沒有

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her own way to catch shows in Paris and Milan, and spent countless evenings sifting through thousands of slides in search of the latest trends. So it wasn’t long before Vietnam’s plethora of embroiderers caught her eye. “There was no one specialising in accessories design and production in Vietnam, and I felt this would be a key item on the fashion scene,” she says. “I was right — and the rest was history.” The premise was simple: to combine her exceptional feel for design with the superb craftsmanship of traditional artisans. She began by developing private label work for international designers, such as Shanghai Tang, G.O.D. and Anteprima. Ipa-Nima was established in 1997 and nurtured in a narrow two-storey house with a phone, fax machine and one laptop. “There was no air-conditioning, so it was literally a sweat shop!” Christina recalls. Developing a business in Vietnam has been a challenge. “Everything starts at kindergarten level — business concepts, practices and ethics,” Christina says. “You don’t appreciate how much Hongkongers try to make things work unless you have lived abroad.” But fastforward to 2013, and besides Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Ipa-Nima has stores in Tokyo, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius and Warsaw. In 2003, her husband filled out his last timesheet as a lawyer and joined the Ipa> > 024 < <

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親自飛到哈薩克(他被派駐的地方) 接他返回越南。 余倩儀本身短暫的律師生涯, 只是她回歸家族企業發展前的一段小 插曲。「我祖父是靠生產皮具及高級 珠寶致富,」她說。 「我祖母擁有最 精緻名貴的珠寶,還有華麗的服裝及 鞋履,但她卻對打麻將更有興趣。」 余倩儀成長於1960、1970年 代,正值她所謂的「中西交匯」時 期。她入讀美國國際學校(她祖母為 此十分耽心),周末看外國電影,去 天祥百貨購物(馬莎百貨前身),喜 歡聽披頭四樂隊和「貓王」Elvis的音 樂。不過,她也喜歡逛街市,平日晚 上喜歡看粵劇及聽本地流行曲。 「我 記得在彌敦道,一邊走一邊欣賞女士 們身上的旗袍,圖案都精心設計,剪 裁完美合身,配搭手工釘珠的羊毛中 袖外套,及簡單的箱型手袋或皮製手

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Nima team. Presumably Christina didn’t have to fly to Kazakhstan — where he had been based — to escort him to come back to Vietnam. Her own fleeting legal career was a brief detour before she relaunched the family business in her own fashion. “My grandfather made his fortune in leather goods and fine jewellery,” she says. “My grandmother had some of the most exquisite jewellery, dresses and shoes in Hong Kong, yet she was most interested in her mahjong games.” Raised in Hong Kong during the ’60s and ’70s, in what she describes as an “East-meets-West period”, Christina went to an American school (much to her grandmother’s chagrin), watched Western movies at weekends, went shopping at Dodwell (now Marks & Spencer), and listened to The Beatles and Elvis. But she also visited local markets, attended Chinese opera on weeknights and enjoyed homegrown pop. “I remember walking down Nathan Road [admiring] the ladies in well-fitted cheongsams with beautiful prints, hand-beaded cardigans with three-

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Ipa-Nima的釘珠、 刺繡配件飾物是 耗時費工的限量 設計 Ipa-Nima accessories are produced in limited numbers. Intricate beaded and embroidered designs take weeks to complete


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華麗獨特和時尚的設 計是Ipa-Nima的風格 Flamboyant designs, unique twists and funky embellishments are the hallmarks of Ipa-Nima’s style

袋,還有方方正正的大衣⋯」 這些兒時記憶都呈現於Ipa-Nima 的設計中,其產品糅合了「亞洲的 細緻工藝和西方的設計理念、多元 化色系及圖案,以及綴飾繁多的復 古品味。」Ipa-Nima市場營銷經理 Chinara A來自吉爾吉斯斯坦,她形 容Ipa-Nima「非常女性化、時尚及優 雅,但同時非常夢幻和好玩,完全體 現品牌追求原創、大膽、與眾不同 的宗旨。」余倩儀則強調Ipa-Nima的 獨特性,「我們的設計在香港獨一無 二,而且價格非常相宜,」她說。 「要找一件優質的手作商品或獨特的 設計非常困難。加上香港舖租瘋狂飆 升,這亦意味著選擇會愈來愈少。」 儘管如此,余倩儀與幾位志同 道合的設計師仍商議在香港開設一間 多品牌店舖。現時香港的顧客可透 過其網頁查詢詳情(www.ipa-nima. com) 。 「我們喜歡直接接觸顧客,提 供個人化服務,而不是隔著電腦屏 幕。」余倩儀說。如想一嘗Ipa-Nima 的終極體驗,當然要親臨河內或胡 志明市的旗艦店,其裝潢極盡氣派講

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quarter-length sleeves, boxy framed handbags in plain or exotic leather, boxy coats…” Many of these childhood influences have visibly surfaced in Ipa-Nima, a line defined by a mix of “fine Asian craftsmanship and Western concepts, eclectic colours and prints, and a vintage, embellished look. Ipa-Nima’s sales & marketing manager, Chinara A from Kyrgyzstan, describes the brand as “very feminine, chic and elegant, but at the same time fanciful and playful. As the motto goes: ‘Be Original. Be Daring. Be Different’.” Christina, meanwhile, emphasises Ipa-Nima’s individuality. “We offer accessories that are different to anything you can get in Hong Kong, and the price tag is very reasonable,” she says. “It’s terribly difficult to find anything of high quality that’s handmade or unique. Rentals in Hong Kong are crazy, which means choices become increasingly generic.” Nevertheless, she has banded together with a few fellow designers to discuss opening a multi-brand store in Hong Kong. For now, Hong Kong customers can send a web enquiry via their website (www.ipa-nima.com). “We prefer direct communication with our customers for a personal service rather than click, click and click,” adds Christina. But for the ultimate Ipa-Nima experience, customers can visit one of the flagship stores in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh > > 028 < <

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(上圖左起)位於胡志明市的 Ipa-Nima旗艦店,Ipa-Nima 創辦人余倩儀 (Left) Ipa-Nima's flagship store in Ho Chi Minh City's Dong Khoi district; (right) the founder of Ipa-Nima, Christina Yu

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究,完美符合Ipa-Nima的美麗夢幻形 象。 「旗艦店的概念是由我設計,仍 然很高興聽到讚美。」她說。 余倩儀精力旺盛眾所周知。「 她希望一日有36小時,她嫌24小時 太少。」Ipa-Nima平面設計師Minh Phuong說。「她可以一邊說話一邊打 字,1秒輸入10個字。你很多年前說 過的話,她都記得。而且她日日精心 打扮,像明星一樣。她太神奇了。」 余倩儀正忙於簡化生產工序, 其位於胡志明市工業區的工廠亦是促 使她決定移居當地的主因。冥冥之 中,她似乎注定不能長駐河內。 「我 在河內的房子、辦公室及店舖的租約 都相繼到期,所以我決定撤離河內, 改投胡志明市做一個工廠女工!我是 一個城市遊牧人,我喜歡讓生命引領 我不斷前進,絕不會留戀過去。」確 實是至理名言。

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City — the plush interiors fulfil the Ipa-Nima fantasy to a T. “I designed the concept of the stores, and I get a thrill when I receive compliments about them,” she says. Christina has a reputation for being utterly tireless. “She’d be happy with a 36-hour day — 24 hours isn’t enough,” says Minh Phuong, a graphic designer at IpaNima. “She types 10 words per second while talking to you, and remembers what you told her years ago. And she dresses like a star every day. She’s an incredible woman.” Christina is now focusing some of this boundless energy on streamlining production at her factory in the industrial fringes of Ho Chi Minh City, which is the main reason she decided to relocate. As it happens, fate conspired against Hanoi keeping a hold on her. “Leases for my house, office and shop in Hanoi all expired within a three-month period, so I decided to ‘defect’ and now here I am — a factory girl! But I am an urban nomad — I like to move on with my life, and I haven’t looked back.” Words to live by, indeed.


Horizon Magazine: Profile Christina Yu  

A profile of Christina Yu, the founder of Ipa-Nima, one of the most original boutique brands in Asia

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