Two pair of feet wearing Swing Love shoes hanging our of a car window.
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Meet Châu Quỳnh Lê from Swing Love

Swing Love: Meet the woman whose love for swing dance inspired her business in handcrafted sustainable leather shoes in Vietnam.

Photo by Hiếu Minh Lê, who is on Instagram.

I first met Châu in May 2020 in Hội An, the charming UNESCO-protected coastal town in central Vietnam. We were having dinner on neighboring outdoor tables in the restaurant of a communal friend just after Vietnam’s first COVID-19 lockdown.

Under rustling palms facing a pond, Châu spoke about her recently launched business in making bespoke leather shoes. She showed off the two-toned pair on her feet and I was impressed. By the gorgeous shoes and by her stance against the wasteful fast-fashion industry. 

“Has this been your dream,” I asked, “to become a sustainable shoe designer?”

She laughed. “Not at all!”

“So what happened?”

We stayed in touch and reconnected three years later. Swing Love sales had been slow during the pandemic, due to cancelled social events where Châu would normally promote her shoes. And manufacturing had been challenging, due to delayed supplies. But Châu and her master shoemaker Sĩ had taken this time to experiment with new models and enhance their production quality. As a result, Swing Love had experienced significant growth. 

Châu’s story inspired me to write a profile on her that the travel website She’s Wanderful wanted to publish.

“When Swing Love’s Châu Quỳnh Lê was 19 years old and a student in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, she unexpectedly yet wholeheartedly fell in love with Lindy Hop.”

From: She’s Wanderful

My original article was a bit too long for the website, so some paragraphs had to go. Below, I’ll share a part that didn’t make the final cut. It’s on what Châu taught me about leather.

Genuine Leather

I was shocked to learn what the label “genuine leather” means. I had seen it printed on pretty much all my shoes made in Italy or Spain and had naïvely taken it as an indication of quality. In reality it denotes the worst grade of leather. The stuff consists of little scraps of leather mixed with other materials, so bogus leather would be a more accurate term. Châu obtains the material for her uppers from the surplus produced for luxury brands. 

“I cannot buy the highest quality leather directly,” she explains. “My demand is too small. But I can purchase reserves. When Chanel, for example, orders a particular type of leather, the manufacturer will overproduce to guarantee they can deliver the promised goods in time in case part of the order fails. The leftover leather is sold to smaller producers like me.”

I would be grateful if you checked out the article, even more grateful if you checked out Swing Love’s awesome shoes, and forever in your debt, I guess, if you ordered a pair of Swing Love shoes. Just keep in mind that you will likely love your shoes so much that you’ll be forever grateful I asked you for this favor. 

For more about Vietnam, read: