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Pauline Lewis has more than a decade of experience in international business, primarily in marketing and market research. She was born in Malaysia and spent part of her childhood in Singapore and Hong Kong. Her career started at ACNielsen in Singapore and most recently, before starting oovoo, Pauline was a Director with a leading market research firm in the US, serving Fortune 100 clients. Her eperience crosses various markets and industries with a focused expertise in South East Asia.
In 2004 she decided it was time to do something different. Pauline has a love for handcrafted art and during her travels in Asia she had seen beautifully made local products. She also knew she wanted to help women in the developing world, and work only with women-owned businesses and female artisans. After leaving her corporate position Pauline traveled back to Asia being inspired by the women she met along the way. While in Vietnam she saw superbly styled and well made handbags in a shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Less than a month later, Pauline returned to Ho Chi Minh City to meet with Le Thi Hong Tu, better known as Hong Tu, the owner of the shop and designer of the handbags. Hong Tu agreed to create a new handbag line for Pauline, act as point person and oversee the embroiderers.
Oovoo was born. It is a collaboration between Pauline and Hong Tu. This alliance has grown to support over 600 women in Vietnam: including 120 full-time employees in the southern region of Vietnam who assemble the handbags and 500 part-time embroiderers in the North. All workers are paid 15% above market rate and given a month's salary as a bonus during the Vietnamese New Year. The women are also given an annual, all-expense paid vacation in Vietnam for themselves and their families. Five percent of oovoo's annual profits go to women's charities in Vietnam and the US.
The name oovoo comes from the Latin word "ovo" which is "the female egg." The "o" in oovoo represents the embroidery circles in Vietnam; oovoo is the circle that connects producers, vendors and customers.
No two oovoo handbags are the same. The handbags have a unique blend of Asian and Western influences that translate into handcrafted works of art. They are made from a synergistic mix of cotton, satin, leather, and suede. Each panel is hand-embroidered with color-fast silk threads, and then the bag is sewn together. A handbag can take up to 20 hours to make, as all the embroidery is hand done.
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