, L Usine
Right in the heart of the city’s creative boom is L’Usine, a lifestyle concept store and Saigon institution where young, hip urbanites come for retail therapy and coffee. Tucked away off the busy shopping belt of Dong Khoi St in an art arcade chock-a-block with reproduction paintings, the store lives in a derelict building that has survived the ravages of both war and time since the 1800s.
Upon reaching the second floor, L’Usine emerges as a multi-purpose space: there is a bistro on the left, a cosy cafeteria on the right and a boutique with a pop-up exhibition space at the back.
L’Usine is the closest thing to a branch of Urban Outfitters you’ll find in Ho Chi Minh City. This is a place where steeland-concrete industrial roughness is wonderfully juxtaposed with the soft, timeless elegance of the bygone Indochina era. The cafeteria is decked out like a canteen and is illuminated by a deluge of natural light, which comes streaming in through huge windowpanes.
Dotted around the room are communal benches, marbletopped tables for two, wrought-iron chairs, French posters and maps of Indochina. With old sewing looms doubling as giant tables with solid iron legs and heavy timber panels, it’s easy to recognise the industrial roots of L’Usine’s former life as a garment factory. Such pieces of industrial machinery easily induce both nostalgia and perhaps a bit of gratitude that you now don’t have to work at this heavy machinery, but can instead sit on it and enjoy a coffee. One of the period details, namely its shuttered windows, are cleverly used to separate the space from other areas. The adjoining boutique – a gift shopper’s dream – opens out onto a New York-style lofty space with wooden beamed ceilings, polished concrete floors and iron-framed windows. Here you can stock up on many one-off items with brands from across the world: Vietnamese brand Cochine’s home fragrance and candles, Marshall headphones, Cheap Monday Jeans, and Happy Socks from Sweden.
151 Dong Khoi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, tel: +84(8)-6674-3565, http://lusinespace.com.