I was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the early 80's. My first memory of fashion was a tiny jacket my mother sewed together from plaid fabric taken from used adult clothing. My mother, already a popular Vietnamese actress at the time, was my fashion icon despite the fact that Vietnam was still recovering from the war and fashion was more of a fantasy. As early as I can remember we always had style, even though the majority of our clothes were picked from second-hand bins. Although fashion designer wasn't a common profession in Vietnam at the time, I secretly dreamt that one day I would become one.
In 2001, I left for America on a college scholarship and spent the next 10+ years struggling to find my identity, in style and as a person. I was into everything fashion, from designer, to fast, to vintage. I was mesmerized by fashion yet confused by it at the same time. I wanted to work in fashion but was terrified by how cut-throat it seemed. So I chose to become an accountant instead...an accountant who was so bored and unfulfilled that I ended up spending all my money on clothes thinking they would bring me joy. In 2016, I finally quit my job and traveled back to Asia in search of inspiration.
Despite having always been into healthy living (I also own the organic skincare brand Fleur de la Passion), for some reason I never questioned fashion as it relates to health and the environment until returning to Asia this time around. There, I witnessed first-hand how mainstream clothes were made in third-world and developing countries and it was very disturbing. I decided to extend my trip and spend more than half a year learning, researching, visiting factories and interviewing people to gain an in-depth understanding of the giant fast-fashion industry and its impact on the workers, the environment, and the consumers like you and me. I also visited villages where traditional arts and crafts still (sort of) exist to understand the alternatives.
Seeing that there are still wonderful fabrics being made by hand in small batches, if you look hard enough, woke up the fashion lover in me. However, it wasn't until I discovered how challenging it is to sustain the craft, how many families have given up after doing it for generations, and how hard it is to find an artisan that is still doing it the right way (I found ONE family in all of Vietnam still making quality silk the traditional way) that I decided to start my own fashion brand and finally turn my childhood dream into reality.
And Yem was born, but not as just another fashion brand competing for the spotlight. Its mission is to provide consumers with quality fashion pieces that are good for everyone.
Los Angeles, August 18th, 2017.