A man in Saigon has had 30 years of ripping jeans to earn money and survive in Ho Chi Minh.
Truong Tan Vien is currently 57 years old and has spent three decades producing ripped jeans in the business capital of Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh.
At 3 p.m. each day, Vien, traveling from Saigon’s Binh Tan District to Ho Xuan Huong Street in District 3, opens his ripped jeans “shop”.
His humble “shop” comprises a plastic stool on which he habitually sits ripping a pair of jeans, with various items hung along the back wall to entice potential clients.
Prior to his found endeavor, he used to produce children’s clothes but due to the challenges in that business, he was forced to venture on a different hustle.
“I was impressed by the ripped jeans worn by international rock bands, which I copied and wore myself. Later, I tried tearing some up to sell, attracting quite a following,” he recalled, adding he also creates custom designs made to order.
His tools include a thin paper-knife and face mask. Vien, used to thick fabrics, said not all jeans respond well to ripping.
“I don’t work on elastic jeans with thin, soft, and non-durable threading. With black jeans, I recommend horizontal scratchings instead of having them ripped,” Vien maintained, preferring bright jeans that are more “stylish” after being ripped.
Once, a customer requested Vien to “completely rip” his VND20 million jean jacket, leaving the latter at a loss as to what was truly required.
“I befriended him on Facebook, tried tearing some parts, and sent him photos. Not until he gave me his opinion did I dare proceed,” he mentioned.
“I want patrons to have a “dusty” and unique pair of jeans. When they get bored of it, they could bring it back here. I will replace the piece of old cloth with new material,” a smiling Vien maintained.
This pair of jeans took him 20 minutes to tear. Prices depend on the size of ripped parts, ranging from VND10,000-30,000 ($0.43-1.29).
“I see the rippled parts as artworks.”
According to Vien, his earnings from making ripped jeans peaked from 1995 to 2005.
“Vietnam didn’t have ripped jeans back then. I used to make this type of jeans for celebrities. Things are different now, but I am satisfied with my life and income. All things and careers have their peaks and end,” he said.
Dinh Duan, 43, one of Vien’s most loyal customers, buys a pair of ripped jeans.
“He sells old jeans, though I like their color and ripped parts.
I sometimes buy new jeans and bring them here to have them ripped,” Duan commented.
Duan has a video call with his family, asking them whether they would like a pair of jeans from Vien, who earns several hundred dongs per day.
Vien also produces backpacks from used jeans, which can earn him up to VND300,000 a pop.
“I’m unsure whether this is a job or not.
Calling it a job is wrong since no one taught me and I teach no one.
But not calling it a job is also wrong, because I’ve been earning a living from it for 30 years.”