Posted on December 18 2017
Nestled in the foothills around Sapa, in Vietnam’s mountainous border region with China, lives one of our artisans who insists we call her Me (mother). Like most of the Black Hmong women of the region, she balances the traditional responsibilities of growing and harvesting rice, caring for a large family and weaving and dyeing beautiful fabrics.
Me’s home and village is sprawled across the heights of these beautiful, forested foothills with vistas across the iconic rice terraces falling away to the river below. The villages and their residents are so entwined and collaborative that it is difficult to discern their boundaries whether geographically or familial, working together as they do, to grow enough rice to support the village with the surplus being sold to industry.
So, having had the opportunity to rest our weary feet (it takes 2 days of moderate hiking to get to Me’s village) and been fed round after round of delicious food, with rice wine to match, she took us off to a nook of the village that housed the loom and indigo vats used by her and her fellow local artisans.
Perched over 2 vats of indigo and gesturing enthusiastically with hands that carry the purple tinge that her daily work will never quite allow to fade, Me regales us with stories of the weaving and dyeing traditions she has inherited from her ancestors. It is evident that, like rice growing, the fabric and dye produced in the region is a consequence of centuries spent understanding the land that supports them; caring for it and allowing it to care for them.
The clothes and fabric she produces are traditional and functional - predominantly used either to keep warm or to make intricate wedding garb. As with all things, the Black Hmong make what they need and so Me will only sell what isn’t required to either keep her family warm or to keep her traditions flourishing into the future. This is an integral aspect of our sourcing philosophy. We do whatever we can to help maintain the traditions of the areas and artisans with whom we work. We don’t drive a hard bargain and we only buy what was produced to be sold. This means that the fabrics we sell are authentic and unique whilst ensuring that the techniques will passed on to Me’s daughters and beyond.