Sporting a Nike T-shirt, Levis jeans, a G-Shock watch and a gold necklace, Trinh Tung Duong, 37, reckons he has spent about US$350 on the outfit.
"I find it more comfortable wearing or using foreign-branded products," says the private property developer in Ho Chi Minh City, communist Vietnam's southern business capital, with a satisfied chuckle.
"The quality, of course, is better than those made in Vietnam ... and I think I just look much better in the `branded' clothes," he says.
Duong is one of a new breed of high-income earners in Vietnam, who are spending liberally on labelled, and comparatively luxury, items.
Only a few years ago, flaunting foreign labels would have been a definite no-no for Vietnamese people who wished not to be seen straying from the political straight and narrow.
Too obvious signs of affluence used to provoke suspicions of hobnobbing with bourgeois enemies in this fiercely independent communist-ruled country.
Although Vietnam has not exactly embraced full-blown capitalism, pro-market reforms are beginning to take hold and shows of wealth and success are no longer unthinkable.
"It's something irreversible. Success can no longer be hidden. In this respect, Vietnamese society has taken a giant step," says Doan Viet Dai Tu, chairman of the consultancy and investment group Openasia.
Vietnamese society has come a long way since the austere late 1970s and the 1980s when an economy bankrupted following the reunification of 1975 hobbled along until the adoption of economic reforms.
It was only then that what was coyly called the non-state sector officially began to be christened the private sector, and private enterprise was no longer deemed taboo.
"Today, the rich people you see in this country are Vietnamese, not foreigners," stresses Dai Tu of Openasia.
"But the big transformation," he stressed, "is not in the amount of money, but in people's mentalities. Today when someone's successful, he's seen as someone who is good," Dai Tu says.
From the point of view of consumption, Vietnam is a veritable new frontier that is fast opening up.
Women spend hundreds of dollars on cosmetics, men can afford state-of-the-art mobile phones. In Ho Chi Minh City some nightclubs have a daily turnover of US$15,000, most of it from young people buying expensive Cognac bottles.
Restaurants and hotels that used to cater exclusively to foreign businessmen are now targeting the new Vietnamese upper crust.
With the opening of the economy and the massive remittances from overseas Vietnamese -- estimated at US$3.8 billion a year officially, cash is flowing liberally.
"Money's getting boring here", says Dai Tu. "There's soo much of it, people don't know what to do with it. There are no financial products, few other diversions. The surplus just goes on lifestyle products."
For Vietnamese society, the change is dizzying.
"I remember that once upon a time I was really happy to be given a Lux soap by a relative, who brought it back from Germany," says Tran Quoc Anh, 60, a retired teacher in Hanoi.
Everybody in major cities then looked the same, riding "Made in Vietnam" bicycles in either green military uniform or grey working clothes, which could only be bought with ration tickets.
Motorcycles were hardly seen and cars from the former Soviet Union were the most "luxurious" vehicles, mostly owned by state agencies. Now, after nearly two decades of doi moi, the name by which the transition to market economy is known, the lives of many Vietnamese people have changed dramatically.
Shopping centers have mushroomed in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City where people regularly turn up to spend more than US$8,000 for a scooter.
Although 80 percent of the population lives on agriculture, world renowned names like Nike, Christian Dior or Gucci have become familiar in the country of 82 million people -- although most are probably fake.
Most of the brand name products available in Vietnam are imported from China, Thailand and Singapore, with only a few international luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Benetton having opened stores in upmarket malls.
"This same fake Nike T-shirt can be sold for about 400,000 dong [more than US$25] if you buy it in a chic outlet that sells `imported' clothes," says Pham Thuy Hang, a shop owner in Hanoi.
But as Vietnam integrates with the world economy -- and the country's affluent grow richer -- the fakes may increasingly make way for the real thing.
NO VIRUS BLUES: A SEMI Taiwan official said that the virus does not slow down the global semiconductor industry’s investment in manufacturing equipment The production value of the nation’s semiconductor industry is expected to grow 16.7 percent this year from last year, outpacing the global industry’s 3.3 percent growth, industry association SEMI said yesterday. That would help Taiwan safeguard its second spot in the global semiconductor market with a production value of more than NT$3 trillion (US$102.73 billion), SEMI Taiwan president Terry Tsao (曹世綸) told a media briefing in Taipei for the Semicon Taiwan trade show beginning today. The global semiconductor industry’s production value is expected to increase to US$426 billion this year, SEMI said. In terms of semiconductor equipment investment, equipment billings from Taiwanese firms
Intel Corp has received licenses from US authorities to continue supplying certain products to Huawei Technologies Co (華為), a company spokesman said yesterday. Washington has been pushing governments around to world to squeeze out Huawei, saying that the telecom giant would hand data to Beijing for espionage. From Monday last week, new curbs have barred US companies from supplying or servicing Huawei. This week, the state-backed China Securities Journal reported that Intel had received permission to supply Huawei. China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC, 中芯國際), which uses US-origin equipment to make chips for Huawei and other companies, last week confirmed that it had sought
Taipei Times: When do you think the hospitality industry can return to how it was before the COVID-19 pandemic? How does Formosa International Hotels Group (FIH, 晶華酒店集團) fare this quarter and beyond? FIH chairman Steve Pan (潘思亮): The virus outbreak will have a serious impact on business travel, driven mainly by meetings, incentive travel, conferences and exhibitions over the past three decades. For the past six months, many businesspeople have grown used to exchanging information on the Internet, where more people can participate. The trend might sustain for three to five years until people are vaccinated and it is safe to
DIGITAL COMMERCE: In 2016, only 2 percent of orders were delivered in Taiwan, but that has risen to 10 percent, Foodpanda Taiwan Co operations director Nick Yu said Online food delivery platforms have seen explosive growth in Taiwan this year, helped by business opportunities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, company executives said at a digital commerce conference in Taipei yesterday. When the threat of COVID-19 kept people from going out to eat, more people experimented with ordering food deliveries online, Foodpanda Taiwan Co Ltd (富胖達) operations director Nick Yu (余岳勳) said. Foodpanda started operations in Taiwan in 2012. “We experienced 5,000 percent growth in the past 24 months,” Yu said. “That’s more than the previous six years combined.” In 2016, only 2 percent of food orders were delivered in Taiwan, but that