The leather in Vietnam

Before I start writing about shopping for leather shoes in Hoi An, I think it is important to give you some background information of what sort of leather is used in Vietnam and in occurrence, Hoi An!

Made in Vietnam

All the leather that is used in shops in Hoi An are sourced from factories in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). These factories export a leather to many countries worlwide, USA being their biggest client, in fact leather exports is a one of the most important exports sector in Vietnam. These same factories all sell their leather to Adidas and Nike footwear which are made in Vietnam.

Since countries worldwide and famous companies such as Nike and Adidas are using Vietnam’s leather, one can conclude that the leather quality is not all that bad in Vietnam.

These factories have also a growing domestic demand and a lot of their unused leather is sold to retailers.

leather in vietnam (2)_448x600 leather in vietnam (1)_448x600

Above photo shows the leather is sold in rolls.

There are only 4 shops in Hoi An (correct me if I am wrong) who buy their leather and keep a substantial stock of different colors.

It can prove difficult for these retailers to offer the same type of leather every month, their products depend on the supplies provided by the factories in HCMC; Some colors may not be available again.

Obviously, the leading shops of Hoi An invest and stock up on the best leather available so as to not be out of reserve but also to have some sort competitive advantage by having exclusivity on the best fabric and leaving the leftovers to their competitors.

 Fake leather, damaged leather, Painted leather…

fake_leather fake_leather

Above left fake leather, right real leather

Fake leather

Above are 2 different fabrics used to make a pair of women’s shoes. The fabric on the right is what would be presented to customers is leather (snake pattern) but in some shops, the end product used would be the fabric on the left which is pretty much plastic. Once the pair finished you wouldn’t see the inside which would directly show you its fake. So watch out for the extremely shiny leather…

One must know that the leather represents more than half the price of the bag or a pair of shoes which makes bargaining complicated, labor being a lot cheaper. The competition makes up for relatively low prices and therefore hard to negotiate too much. If you bargain too much, the shop will make some serious cost savings (No eyelet, Lining in tissue, zipper in plastic…) but will not lose money.

SO, The shops offering extremely low prices for leather shoes are in fact selling fake leather shoes. Be aware…

Damaged leather

Another issue that unfortunately you would not notice until the end product is finished as you will only be shown a small piece of fabric like photo above but sometimes the leather batch is damaged. Again the leading shops in town, get the best leather and the leftovers like damaged fabric are sold to other shops at a much lower rate. Go to a reputable shoe shop!

Painted leather

Last but not least….Tainted leather. ‘Hello, I would like a green pair of shoes’ …. ‘ No problem!’ Spray paint here we come.

The advantage of painted leather is you get the color you wanted, the bad point is it will eventually peel off…

Now I talked about the fabric, I will now talk about the other small things that we really make a difference

The making of

By now you have already selected the design you wanted and the leather to be used. There are also other things can come against a good quality pair of shoes.

The accessories (I would love to use another word but I can’t find one)

1# The zippers

Especially for ladies boots, you will (or not) be given a choice between a metal zipper, a not so metal or a plastic one. Of course, go for the metal one, check the zip it’s easy to see if its a good one or not. Zippers are expensive to replace in most Western countries, they will actually cost near as much to replace than buying another pair.

2# Eyelets

I learned this word today! If you don’t know what it is here is a difinition:

‘An eyelet provides a smooth, rigid surface for laces to be fed through, and stops the fabric from fraying where the hole was made.’

Sourced from:

In Hoi An, its all or nothing… as in no eyelet at all if they are going for cheap. Make sure they put them on the shoes and the ones used are metal instead of plastic. Obviously, eyelets are not always needed especially if the leather is thick but on casual shoes, its a must.

3# The lining inside

That is something that should be told to the shoe shop right away otherwise they will go for the cheapest option. A reputable shoe shop will use suede as the fabric for the lining inside the shoes, a non-reputable shop will tissue… it will of course eventually split.

4# glue

That’s probably the most important one. Many shops will glue the sole to the shoes instead of doing stitching. If your shoes don’t get any stitching, your pair will have a very short lifespan. The stitching should be free.

Other tips:

  • Free delivery, during the rainy season ask the shop to deliver, they will do it for free.
  • Credit card 3% charge – the shop should cover the Vietnam bank charge, stand your ground
  • Glue, I know I am repeating myself, ask for stitching, it is and should be free.
  • Do some ground work on real vs fake leather so you will be able to tell the difference!

What can possibly go wrong, some reviews on TA:

“The stole 25$”, “A total rip off – check carefully everything you buy here, Sole fell off after one day”, “worst.”, “WORST SHOPPING EXP OF MY LIFE – SHOCKED”

Last but not least, I name ‘Fight Club’ :

“Shoe shop or fight club???” and….. Round 2 “Fight club round 2”

And these are just some of the bad reviews, don’t fall in the same trap…

Where to buy shoes in Hoi An?

Friendly shop is the best shoe shop in town. All this article summaries what Friendly shop doesn’t do wrong but does right.

Friendly shop is probably the only shop that only uses genuine leather, no fakes there.

The service is professional and the owner Ms. Thong speaks very good English and will give you some great advise.

All stitching, no glue. Most importantly, they are the only shop in Hoi An who offer 100% reimbursement if you are not satisfied with their products. No Like = No Pay is their slogan.

What people say on TripAdvisor sums up the quality of service at Friendly shop:

“7 Pairs of beautiful shoes later… “, “Brilliant!”, “Strapping quality & value”, “Just what I wanted”, “Great shoes for a great price”


Friendly shop


18 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An


  1. Elmar Stremitzer February 26, 2015 at 5:45 pm -  Reply

    Hi there,

    I was in Hoi an once and I bought a nice leather bag – I would be interested in 2 or 3 nice leather bags… I will be next week in Hanoi, unfortunately not Hoi An but is it possible to send a bag there or do you have a shop or market there aswell?
    Best regards,

  2. admin March 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm -  Reply

    Hi Elmar, contact friendly bags they can take your order online, provide as much details as possible and they will send it to you.

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