The Hanoi Street Scene That Made Me a Believer in Vertu  

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 14 2013 10:06 AM

Vertu in Asia

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Vertu Hanoi, at the Sofitel Metropole.

Photo by Matthew Yglesias

I wrote earlier this week that visiting Asia made me a believer in Vertu's seemingly ridiculous luxury smartphone strategy, since basically it's no more ridiculous than any other luxury accessories business. I realized that while in Hanoi I actually took a photograph that illustrated my point quite well. This is the ground floor of the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, the latest iteration of a historic Franco-Vietnamese hotel dating back to the colonial era. It's a nice old building in a style that's fairly rare in Hanoi (I think U.S. bombing destroyed most of the historic structures), it's across the street from a nice little park, and it has lots of luxury goods stores as retail tenants on the ground floor.

It is extremely common for engaged couples in Vietnam to get their wedding photos taken here. People like to use the park across the street as a setting, and people like to use the façade of the hotel as a setting—including using the luxury stores and their signs as a backdrop.

People are pretty picky about their weddings and associated events. People who thought a Vertu phone was markedly more ridiculous than a Louis Vuitton bag would not get engagement photos taken in front of a Vertu shop. They would simply wait their turn and pose at Louis Vuitton. But they don't draw that distinction. They are simply both seen as prestigious aspirational luxury brands. Probably not the sort of thing either couple is, in practice, going to buy. But the sort of thing they might want to buy in some hypothetical scenario where they strike it rich. Certainly the kind of thing where if someone else bought it, the reaction would be admiration and envy rather than ridicule.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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