The Indochine Natural brand story. It’s edgy, exotic. It’s a love story.
Dr. Mike Thair: Australian adventurer. Scientist. Passionately interested in aromatherapy and all things olfactory. His formative years were spent as a student in the 1970s hippy era. A rebellious dreamer. Has spent most of his adult life in SE Asia working in poverty alleviation.
Ms. Le Thanh Thuy: Born in Ha Noi. A child of Communist Viet Nam during the ’70s and the end of the Viet Nam War in April 1975. She battles with the inherent conflicts between the Communist notions of equality, Confucian beliefs in harmonious subordination, and the free-market notions of making money and achieving success.
The Indochine Natural brand story starts in the 1990s and the awakening of Ha Noi. Mike’s first foray into Viet Nam. At that time there were few foreigners in Ha Noi. The atmosphere was edgy, exotic, unfamiliar. Streets filled with flower stalls, neighborhood shops, and sidewalk cafes. Roadways packed with hundreds of bicycles.
Ha Noi was not what Mike expected. Instead of a squalid third-world capital struggling to recover from years of war and isolation, it was a stylish, European-influenced metropolis. Manicured lakeside promenades, tree-lined boulevards, ancient pagodas, and French-colonial buildings dominated the cityscape.
Thuy and Mike’s paths crossed in Ha Noi in the early 2000s. Mike, working in poverty alleviation. Thuy, the “darling of the international set” as the owner of a flourishing fashion design business catering to foreigners.
She had made a new discovery—handmade natural soap from Bali. “Nothing special,” says Mike, “I can do better.” Thuy held him to his word. A challenge was set.
The next few months saw Mike working in a corner of Thuy’s fashion design studio producing handmade natural soap bars. A nearby ancient herbal medicine street in Ha Noi influenced Mike. Contact was made with local French essential oil distillers.
The bars and fragrances converted fashion clients into natural handmade cosmetics customers. It kindled the creation of a new business. And the Indochine Natural brand story transformed into a brand.
Love evolved. It was a time when the two from different backgrounds and cultures were forced to make difficult choices. Take chances, make sacrifices, and struggle to establish new lives.
Desperate for more space, Indochine Natural moved its production facility to Penang Island, Malaysia in 2009. Thuy became a shareholder in Indochine Natural and closed her Viet Nam fashion design business.
The owners today. Mike is Indochine Natural’s Master Formulator and Managing Director. Thuy, ever the reclusive North Vietnamese, manages the back end of business as a Director. She prefers to remain anonymous and out of the public spotlight. Her true nature—a woman of mystery.
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