So i have been a little quiet and thats because i went travelling around Vietnam to research how the locals live and create their fabrics from scratch with their hands as i had heard so much about this! The experience was one never to forget, such simple ways of living and ones that cause minimal impact on the environment. The Hmong people, as well as many other ethic Vietnamese groups, live self sustainably. Growing their own foods, raising their own animals and fetching their own water. It is a life that resembles centuries ago for us who live modern western civilisation. It’s a life of simplicity.
Meet the lovely ladies of Sapa, how inspirational - they are proud of their routes and wear what they create, they live and breath their heritage. H’mong women are respected in their community as being equal with H’mong men. Husbands and wives are very affectionate and do many of their tasks together like going to the market, working on the field and visiting relatives. In this way, they help each other to develop a strong community life.
Can you believe they made their outfits (not the polar necks though..) the overalls, the patterns, the bag, the scarfs and hat - all hand made! So these ladies accompanied us during our hike around Sapa. I remember one ladies name ‘Susu’ she helped me up when i kept falling on the slippery slopes and bamboo bridge - just one log of bamboo to get over the water underneath - it was scary well for a Londoner anyway who is protected by barriers on a straight road…
The organic hemp is locally grown in Vietnam and woven into fabric which a hand controlled device, no electricity included just a pedal and some hand action. Hemp is a very tough fibre, traditionally used to make ropes for ships but adapted to make clothes is another process but sustainable process.
Softening by hand alone will not be enough to make comfortable clothes which one would wear everyday. The yarn needs to be flattened further under the weight of a seesaw style millstone. The technique consists of a woman (with excellent core strength) surfing a stone tablet back and forth over the yarn. Once this process is complete and the yarn is smooth and shiny it can woven into fabric on hand looms..
The next stage is dying, i have never come across this technique probably because i have only seen the large scale factories show casing their ways of dying - not sustainable may i add! Indigofera tinctoria, also called true indigo, is a species of plant from the bean family that was one of the original sources of indigo dye. The fabric is placed into buckets of indigo dye and left for 6 days. The fabric is dried and again this process repeated 3 times. Then comes the amazing aztec embroideries onto the fabric by hand to create really cool pieces, i remember designing aztec patterns when designing for various fashion houses and sending them to the factories to create in bulk, its disheartening how an innocent tradition that makes money for this community is mass made by the rich and flogged on the high street for so much more money. I bought home some of their fabric which i will be using in my up cycling - so excited!
These are all organic, hand made, not fast fashion and totally great for the world. Our world has become so focussed on mass and money and now we have all woken up to the affect it has had on our planet. We need to educate ourselves and the future to make changes. Fashion is a way of expression, its personal, but our greed has lead this beautiful industry to help destroy our world. There are better ways of fashion, every part of the fashion designing process and making in mass need to be taught the better way. Money needs to be invested in this, slow fashion and being unique is so much cooler. Why do we need to make 50,000 pieces of one piece. We need to slow down and live simple again.