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Bao, 24, a native of the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang, studied architectural design at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He has compiled a collection of canvas shoes with motifs from the Nguyen Dynasty, the last dynasty that ruled in Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 with Hue as the imperial capital. Bao also has a collection of old attire and embroidery from the same period. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
He began painting old patterns on his shoes when he was 19. But two years later, he switched to Hue royal motifs after being inspired by a visit to the ancient house of Huynh Thuy Le, a wealthy Chinese-Vietnamese man during the French colonial rule, in Dong Thap Province's Sa Dec Town, where he saw many pictures of historical figures in traditional attire. The photo above shows a pair of shoes with the design inspired by Duc Tu Cung, mother of Emperor Bao Dai, Vietnam's last king. She wears the Nhat Binh traditional outfits of the Nguyen Dynasty. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
Nhat Binh was a ceremonial dress worn by women of noble rank under the Nguyen Dynasty. It had two long collar strips forming an eye-catching rectangle around the neck, which coincides with the shape of high-neck sneakers. Bao spent three to four days researching and experimenting with various decorative layers before extracting the collar pattern from Nhat Binh's clothes and simplifying it to fit the area of the shoes shown. Three years ago, Bao drew the Hue royal motif on his first pair of shoes. It took him four days to complete and he still has them as a keepsake. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
Bao first creates 3D designs on the computer and makes appropriate adjustments before drawing and painting on real shoes. He paints on shoes manufactured and distributed by a domestic shoe company. However, he will import shoes from abroad for customers with large foot sizes. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
He said the drawing process has five steps. The first one is to research the piece that inspires him, including its history, setting, and related stories. The next step is to select a specific pattern. Then comes the 3D design testing, followed by sketching. The last step is to design the final shape and color it. "I want to keep the characteristic of the motifs as authentic as possible, just adjusting a few details for it to be appropriate and fashionable," said Bao. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
He said the most difficult thing for him when drawing is keeping the “feel and vibe” of the original patterns. For example, embroidery patterns are frequently bordered with glitter and raised around the edges. So when drawing, he must also outline a tinted color line and repeat it many times until the desired thickness is achieved. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
Because he always tests his strokes on another piece of fabric first, Bao is able to control the amount of paint on each brush before applying it on the real shoes. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
He said it takes him 30-40 hours to complete designing and drawing one pair of shoes and another 36 hours for the paint to dry. One of his favorite works is the Phung (Phoenix) pattern. This pair of shoes is patterned after a woven piece, with a phoenix pattern that was worn by a Nguyen Dynasty princess that he bought in the US. This pair of shoes is exhibited at the Dubai Expo 2021, at the invitation of the Department of International Relations under the Ministry of Culture - Sports - Tourism towards promoting the Nguyen Dynasty's fine arts in modern designs. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
The artist said he has finished 70 pairs of shoes so far. He only paints when he has free time or when a customer places an order. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
Most of Bao's customers are in 20-40 age range. He said his customers like his shoes because they are unique and carry a lot of historical significance. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
In the future, he intends to open workshops to train and form his own team to increase the number of products. However, he said quality must still come first. (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)
"I feel that it is necessary to propagate national culture. By doing this, I hope to kindle awareness and love for the cultural traditions. I also wish that our cultural heritage will be preserved and not die out over time." (Photos courtesy of La Quoc Bao)

Artist gives common shoes a royal touch

(VOVWORLD) - La Quoc Bao loves decorating canvas shoes with royal motifs from Hue and sells his creations for 7-12 million VND (309-530 USD) a pair.