We came across Zo Project during our research into social enterprises in Vietnam, and when we finally arrived in Hanoi we discovered that it was a hidden gem in every sense of the word!
The Zo Project store is based in a very unique location: up a very narrow side street with an active train track in the middle of the road! Despite the obvious disruption that comes with being located basically on a train track, the store is cosy and super welcoming.
One of Zo Project's employees Hong Kyshared the story as we curled up on massive Vietnamese floor cushions. It was here that we first learnt about the huge historical and cultural value attached to Do paper. The elastic and durable quality of the paper makes it perfect for contemporary products but it was being overlooked for more modern materials until Tran Hong Nhung came to its rescue.
So Zo Project was born.
This social enterprise produces contemporary products while focusing on paper conservation and development of the industry, through a combination of traditional technique and modern design.
The project has grown from strength to strength and now they collaborate with different artists from Vietnam and all over from the world to produce stunning stationary, post cards and calendars, but they are not confining themselves to stationary staples, they also create unique household items like, lamps.
The paper is completely eco-friendly, natural and sustainable, from the harvesting process which takes over a year and sees the root of the tree being reused again as the Do tree undergoes speedy regrowth, especially in summer time to the production process. Only handful of villages on the outskirts of Hanoi have the perfect conditions that Zo Project needs to continue this enterprise; access to the rare Do tree and the local skill set needed to make the paper itself. Thanks to the diligence and commitment of the Zo Project team, dozens of families in these rural villages have stable employment, the traditional art of Do paper has been revived and because of the exceptionally beautiful products being created with it, it is now enjoying another moment in the sun, having been saved from the brink of extinction. This is just a small example of the incredible work being done by innovative, dynamic and creative individuals who are passionate about a cause, and make the cause their mission.
After spending less than 5 minutes walking alongside these tracks we found Zo Project neatly tucked away.
Entrance into the store.
Some of the fabulous stationary.
Hong Ky is showing me the different types of Zo paper – it ranges from 1 layer – 4 layers which would be its thickest paper.