Made by Ginkgo: Translating Inspiration

Thomas Colliers

'Made by Ginkgo' is a miniseries of editorials that really look behind the scene of how each piece of the Ginkgo brand is created and shaped, a collection of inspiring factors that has given Ginkgo the unique identity it is known today.


Tangled lines of motorbikes blaring their horns; plastic sandals strewn in front of a doorway; bum gun resting beside a toilet: when a designer walks around the city he or she sees in art. Many of Ginkgo’s designs comes from the team’s daily wandering Saigon and beyond. Being struck by the meaning, aesthetics and story of a commonplace scene is just the first step, though, in a process that ends with new shirts, skirts and accessories arriving in one of Ginkgo’s stores.

No design comes about exactly the same as exemplified by the different ways the process can begin. Sometimes, like the new line celebrating pigs to coincide with the current zodiac animal, it starts with a concept. Other times a designer has noticed something around town or found inspiration in a piece of music, literature nature or simply the strange receses of one’s. With some ideas in mind, the small team meets to brainstorm and offer collaborative feedback. Often times the sessions will include outside material, often from Vietnam, such as photos and Đông Hồ paintings.

Ginkgo designers at work, hand-sketching is totally our favorite method of turning raw ideas into designs.

In the meetings ideas frequently ping pong back and forth, gaining new element and perspectives. The collective creative powers come together to become a whole greater than its parts; become a Ginko design.

Once the team settled on some ideas, the designers get to work. Most draw the images by hand then scan them into a computer, but some prefer to do everything digitally. Files are then shared with feedback given via messaging systems or impromptu desk visits. This entire process typically takes anywhere from one week to one month.

Exchanging ideas is the ethos of our creativity

After a design is settled on the less meticulous process of working with the printer and the workshop begins. The team often has specific colors and fabric type in mind when conceptualizing a new product with one of the 30-some different cuts often informing the image and placement. Printed on a fabric swatch, a sample allows the team to ensure the image and color quality meets the highest standards and it passes an eye and feel test.

When approved, it gets printed on a full shirt that was hand-stitched at the Ginkgo workshop in Gò Vấp where any additional embroidered elements are also added. The entire team reviews it again including members from sales and marketing. If it receives the final go-ahead, those involved with its design sign a sample and several hundred items are handmade and shipped all across Vietnam.

Creatively designed T-shirts, ready for retail!

The entire process from initial inspiration to it hanging on a rack for sale can take between a month and a half to three months. Ultimately only 10 to 20% of early designs will make it to final release. Ideas are never thrown away, however, simply stored to revisit later when the time is right. Sometimes elements of them find their way into later pieces as well. Ultimately, careful attention and love are required for each step to ensure every item embodies Ginkgo’s commitment to providing creative, original high-quality goods that embody Vietnamese culture and craftsmanship. From conception to design to creation, because each step takes place in Saigon itself, it can be considered a product of the city’s very heartbeat.

Add new comment


  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.