Versatility

Versatility

noun: the ability to adapt to many different functions or activities

At Nina Nguyen Designs, versatility is the name of the game.  We love mixing and matching metals, stacking on rings and bangles in our own versions of #theninastack, and our new interchangeable Hoops and Jackets!  We believe that everyone has a unique style, and we’re here to help each of you create looks as distinct as you are.

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For any of you fashionistas out there that may be wondering what an earring “jacket” is, let me clarify- the jacket is the actual dangle that you add to your hoops.  Nina Nguyen Designs offers them in Sterling Silver and 18k Gold, in a variety of different styles to wear alone or to wear stacked!

dsc_0342-2.jpgPictured above: Silver Hoops with interchangeable Jackets in Balance Aqua Chalcedony and Petal Silver

Not only do we have lots of fun new pieces for you, but we also have tons of new content! Nina Nguyen Designs spent this past weekend exploring Union Station, Lower Downtown Denver, and our new space at the Oxford Hotel to bring fresh faces and a fun new feel to the blog.  Check out some of the behind the scenes shots below, and on our Instagram @ninanguyend!

IMG_1212.JPGInside the gorgeous Oxford Hotel, home of our new showroom!

 

IMG_1186.JPGHistoric Union Station, pictured above, is right across the street from our new space.

 

IMG_1198.JPGAnd that’s a wrap!

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The Nature Conservancy and Nina Nguyen Designs

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With the busy Holiday Season upon us, it is important to take a step back and think about how to make a positive impact on the world around you.

Protecting the environment is a top priority for us here at Nina Nguyen Designs.  We make every effort to use recycled materials- from the shimmering 18 karat gold you see in pieces like the Fond Emerald Gold Ring, to the recycled cardboard used for our shipping materials.  Nina uses responsibly sourced stones and conflict-free recycled diamonds to do her part in ensuring that the Earth is not depleted of its resources.

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There are many great organizations that you can feel good about supporting, and this#GivingTuesday Nina Nguyen Designs has chosen The Nature Conservancy. They make it a priority to protect Mother Nature, so a portion of our November 28th, 2017 online purchases will be donated to this wonderful organization, so Mother Nature can continue to “fulfill our needs and enrich our lives.”

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The Nature Conservancy uses donations to advance conservation science, to shape practical policies, to safeguard nature, and so much more.  The Conservancy not only makes our local Colorado environment a priority, but extends their reach across the entire globe.  For more information on how donations to The Nature Conservancy are used, please visit www.nature.org.

 

For the Eco-Conscious Fashionista

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The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, trailing only behind the oil industry. Additionally, the US is the largest importer of garments in the world.  Despite the fact that up to 95% of the textiles that are landfilled each year could be recycled, consumers throw away up to 70 pounds per person each year.  These daunting statistics may leave you confused and angry, but you can make a difference in the environment by making smart purchases.

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That’s where Nina Nguyen Designs comes in.  Nina Nguyen’s commitment to leaving the world a better place than she found it includes her use of organic, responsibly sourced stones, and recycled metals.

Nina isn’t the only designer who holds sustainability close.  Slow fashion is on the rise, with brands like Older Brother, which boasts that garments can be buried in your backyard to decompose after they’ve been loved to death, Dick Moby and their recycled leather sunglass cases, and Tradlands, who recycles any and all unused material remnants, setting the bar high.

Now, fashionistas can rest assured that they are making a positive impact on the Earth by purchasing pieces made by brands that share the same sustainability beliefs as them!

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“I think all products should be made in a manner that benefits everyone involved. I would love for my jewelry to bring this message: that people should always be concerned with where the things they purchase come from, who made them, where the materials came from, how long they last, and what will become of it when its life is over.”  -Nina Nguyen

Home is Where Your Jewels Are!

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photo via theoxfordhotel.com

Nina Nguyen Designs has found an amazing new home! We are sad to leave the beautiful Victorian house where our office has been for the last two years, but couldn’t be more excited about our new office. Located in the heart of downtown Denver in the Oxford Hotel, it has vintage charm with five star amenities. Opened in 1891, the Oxford Hotel is one of the oldest in Denver. We’ll be just steps away from the iconic Union Station.

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photo via theoxfordhotel.com

This new location gives us an amazing new space with opportunities to host guests and events in this iconic building. We can’t wait for you to visit!

Handcrafted on the Mekong

by James

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We concluded our excursion on the Mekong with visits to many hard-working families that use local materials to produce a variety of handicrafts and home essentials. Echoing Nina’s combination of focus and creativity, these often women-led businesses demonstrated a relaxed spirit of entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

In fact, I later learned why it was common to see so much self-starting industriousness throughout my travels in Vietnam—95% of Vietnamese support capitalism, by far more than any other country (including the USA) surveyed by the Pew Research Center. With careful planning by our guide, we took to the canals and paths of Tân Phong island and nearby areas to meet as many of these women as we could.

 

Starting by sampan (flat bottomed small wooden boat), we cut through a lush section of Tân Phong to see the first shops before switching to bikes to complete our tour. Among the reed hat makers, tapioca-derived lacework artisans, hanging basket weavers, and others, my favorite was the ease with which a woman could carry on a casual conversation with Nina while also swiftly thatching a roof panel from nipa palm and the comradery among those selling beautiful baskets made from water hyacinth. While I didn’t bring home any thatch roofing, my daughters do now delight in having a sampan-shaped hyacinth basket to display geodes and other little travel treasures.

 

We also passed by many of the larger businesses along the main tributary of the Mekong. Sunday morning activity was light, but the size and number of the operations displayed the productivity of the region. The most notable buildings to any river traveler are the beehive-shaped earthen kilns rising dozens of feet above the banks of the river. Fed by massive baskets of rice hulls, these ovens typically dry bricks but also the pottery commonly seen throughout Saigon and further afield.

 

As our guide directs our boat to Vinh Long for the shuttle back to Saigon, we take with us an increased appreciation for the favors, sights, and people of the Mekong Delta. Seeing Nina’s team produce her stunning vision of the Mekong collection reminds me that Saigon is reflection of its place in the Mekong Delta.

 

 

Flavors of the Mekong

By James

Gems must be on my mind because the colorful fruits along the Mekong provide subtle reminders of the multi-colored sapphires and diamonds embedded in gold bangles back at the studio.

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In this instance, I’m admiring a woven basket holding bright red dragon fruit and yellow mango aboard our boat rounding Tân Phong island. Nina breaks open the scaly, layered folds of the dragon fruit to reveal a delicate white flesh studded with black seeds. The texture and flavor is much less dramatic than its appearance, reminiscent of a kiwi fruit. This contrasts with the meaty flavor of yesterday’s jack fruit. Meaty, really? Surprisingly, jack fruit is a hearty carnitas substitute for the vegan taco-lover.

Of course, the Mekong Delta offers much more than just tropical fruit. An early morning walk to the market at Hoà Ninh reveals the raw bounty of the region, especially the seafood or I should say riverfood. Bags of dried shrimp sit alongside buckets of live fish, eels, snakes, and frogs at the waterfront. Avoiding a catfish leaping from a bucket, I move to wander through the less animated stalls of produce, baked goods, and household items.

Heading back to our homestay, we watch a busy couple deliver blocks of ice by boat, reminding me of ca phe sua da back at the homestay. A day on the Mekong (really, any day in Vietnam) is not complete until a delicious iced coffee with milk is at hand. Vietnamese coffee is very dark, strong, and bitter so the condensed milk and ice create the perfect balance.

Packed up and back on the river, we enjoy snacks of coconut-sweetened tapioca with sticky rice wrapped in green banana leaves and jasmine green tea as we head to the homes of artisans scattered throughout the region.

In the next post, I’ll share more about how the women we meet create both practical and beautiful items with local materials like water hyacinth and nipa palm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mekong: Mother of Water and More Than a River

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by James

What starts with elephant ear fish and ends with jack fruit? Lunch on the Mekong Delta after a full week rolling out production of the latest collection. Nina invited a lucky few staff from the Saigon office to see her inspiration for the Mekong Collection this past weekend.

We left motorbike-happy Saigon for the motorboats of the Mekong at Cai Be early on Saturday morning. Shaded by droopy banyan trees, we boarded a slender wooden riverboat and puttered past a green carpet of water hyacinth into the silty brown Mekong with our guide Hoa.  For the rest of the weekend, she led us by boat, bike, and foot to not only see the river, but also the islands where skilled women produce most of the food and crafts of the region.

The Mekong River is a defining feature of southeast Asia. The river flows from the Tibetan Plateau through five countries before emptying into the sea south of Saigon. The meandering braids of the richly biodiverse delta literally shape the landscape. The name translates to Mother-of-Water because these waters bring life to the countless communities, farms, and ecosystems along its fabled path.

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In the next post, I’ll share more about the memorable foods and flavors of the Mekong Delta, like bug-eyed elephant ear fish and the world’s largest tree-borne fruit. Inspiration didn’t happen on an empty stomach!