The Studio Story so far – How we got here, what we do, and where we are going… PART 1 of 3 – The Early days

THE LOGO OF The Studio Saigon IS THE EXACT IMPRINT OF THE CITADEL OF Gia Long THAT IS IN THE EXACT LOCATION OF DISTRICT 1, HCMC…

By Richie Fawcett

42,LY TU TRONG. THE LOCATION OF The Studio Saigon.

It all started, as most stories do, as an idea on the back of a scrap piece of paper, I don’t smoke ( only when I’m on fire ), so there is no cigarette packet to put in a museum one day…however…there IS… a LOT… of ART. Find a comfortable spot, mix a martini, settle down, and listen…this may take some time.

ARTISTS IMPRESSION OF THE IMAGINED SAPCE
EMPTY SHELL TO WORK WITH
TRANSFORMATION COMING TO THE NEW SPACE
THE DREAM TO REALITY – COMING ALIVE BEFORE OUR EYES WAS A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT OF CREATION WITH THE HELP OF THE BEST LOCAL CRAFTSMEN IN THE LAND.
THE FINAL RESULT GAVE A GREAT FEELING OF ACHIEVEMENT

Having been in Vietnam around five years at the time the genesis of The Studio Saigon started to take shape, I’d learnt enough about the countries history and drawn enough of the streets of HCMC aka Saigon, to combine them with my other passion which is the making and drinking of cocktails.

ALL DETAILS AND PLANS WERE HAND DRAWN IN 5 DAYS

I had the desire to publish my own art book for a long time and by putting two and two together, I combined all three interests and added one more to being a price list…essentially the catalyst that led to the making of The Studio Saigon was created at that point…not a space yet, but a book. No ordinary book.

COVER OF VOLUME 2 – VOLUME 1 IS SOLD OUT A LONG TIME AGO IN HISTORY

Named “Cocktail Art of Saigon Drinks Manual volume 1” it was Part art, history, recipe and price list, it became the cocktail menu at Shri rooftop restaurant and lounge for 5 continuous years, and the inspiration for many young Vietnamese bartenders to help sow the seeds for writing their own books and setting up their own bars one day.

RICHIE AND DUYEN FAWCETT ARE FIRST TO SIGN THE FAMOUS DOUBLE VAULT DOORS OF THE STUDIO SAIGON’S INNER SANCTUM AND PRIVATE BAR, WHERE HUNDREDS MORE SIGNATURES WILL FOLLOW IN THE YEARS TO COME …
RICHIE AND DUYEN FAWCETT ARE FIRST TO SIGN THE FAMOUS DOUBLE VAULT DOORS OF THE STUDIO SAIGON’S INNER SANCTUM AND PRIVATE BAR, WHERE HUNDREDS MORE SIGNATURES WILL FOLLOW IN THE YEARS TO COME …

THE FIRST OPENING PARTIES WERE THROWN IN THE SUMMER 2017

The Concept was to base the cocktails on the buildings and streets that I had drawn from the first moment I arrived in 2011, and add the history of those streets and buildings too create the cocktail that represents.

THE DRAWING OF The Studio Saigon ON THE CORNER OF LY TU TRONG AND PASTEUR STREET BY Richie Fawcett

The book was launched at Shri on 22nd November 2016 and became an instant hit with the tourists and local bar community. In 2017 the book was nominated for worlds best cocktail menu at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

THE INNER SANCTUM OF The Studio Saigon …THE PRIVATE BAR
THE FAMOUS DOUBLE VAULT DOOR …ALL BRAND NEW AND SPARKLING !
A BALCONY OF BONSAI’S – WE LOVE NATURE
WHEN ITS 40 DEGREES OUTSIDE… YOU ALWAYS NEED SOME WARMTH INSIDE ! …THE HEART OF THE STUDIO…OUR VIRTUAL FIRE PLACE, MODELED ON A TYPICAL VICTORIAN ENGLISH HOMES FIREPLACE.

WHEN YOU FEEL AT HOME, ITS ALWAYS EASY TO CREATE. HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS.

With the book created and published, now all I needed was a real venue to showcase the now extensive historical collection of Pen and ink sketches of Saigon and somewhere to make the cocktails from the book to bring it all to life…and thats exactly what we did.

THE OPENING PARTIES WERE VERY HAPPY OCCASIONS

The Concept was born, but still needed a home. Then, one day in Late November a good friend and soon to be partner gave me a tip off about a 1st floor space with a balcony in the heart of District 1.

MANY FRIENDS OLD AND NEW WERE WELCOMED TO THE NEW Studio Saigon SPACE

A historic building on Ly Tu Trong and one that was built in the 1920’s…the perfect location for The Studio Saigon…without hesitation I secured the space and started the hand drawn plans in meticulous detail.

MANY OF MY YOUNG PUPILS CAME TO WISH GOOD LUCK

One room was to be the gallery…the first room that you enter, and the bar, hidden through a secret door at the back with a balcony over looking the street.

MID CONSTRUCTION , WE WERE ALREADY EXCITED TO SEE THE SPACE COME ALIVE

I saved all the money I could to pay directly for everything from scratch without borrowing from anyone, except to included two silent partners to help with creating the community that would use the space.

The concept was appointment only with minimum spends so that I could manage the events clearly. My choice of bartenders to help with the cocktails was wide given Id trained most of them in the city by this time, so staffing was simple.

The Keys were handed over on 1st January 2017 and fit out started immediately…taking 4 months with TET in the middle…we were ready by May and threw our first parties in June and July that year…The rest you could say, is history.

THE GALLERY …CAN YOU SEE THE DOOR TO THE BAR ?

We’ve had so much fun over the years in our humble, happy place, helping as many charities and social enterprises as our humble budget permits, yet happy to spread the love with the notoriety we poses to extend their catchment areas for assistance…and, yet , now we face new challenges to adapt to a different world to the one we were in when we first created out concept.

A GREAT FRIEND OF The Studio Saigon, JOHN DAWSON AND Hong Kong FRIENDS

One of the key drivers to our survival is diversification and speed of adaptability to pre-empt and steer a clear path through the changing market conditions that have, in the last 18 months, been extreme to say the least.

ART ATTRACTS ART. BRADLEY THEODORE AND FRIENDS ENJOY The Studio Saigon SPACE.
ARTIST – BRADLEY THEODORE

More on this in the next part where I will explain what we do and are doing to remain competitive and relevant in todays World, where both cocktails and art seem superfluous, yet I strongly believe that they are both essential.

I can’t quite believe Hubertus Von Hohenlohe – Red Bull TV, came to visit us at our tiny Studio !
Hubertus Von Hohenlohe – Red Bull TV – enjoying the story behind The Studio Saigon !

In part 2, I will explain exactly why cocktails and art are as important as ever in todays World.

Thank you for reading our story and stay safe.

Please Check out the Channel if you have time, along with the link below to my new and regular blog feed “On The Blog” and website. Thank you for your support of The Studio Saigon and stay safe.

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