Ethical Fashion doesn't have to be boring

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Kachin People

Kachin State is Burma's northernmost province, and it is crowned by the country's highest mountain, Hkakabo Razi, which stands at the edge of the Himalyas and towers to a height of 5,889 meters (19,321 ft). A trip to Hkakabo Razi is only possible with a state-appointed guide, and it takes visitors weeks on foot, along virtually untrodden paths and through thick jungle. Then they catch their first glimpse of the snow-covered foothills of the Himalayas.

Hkakabo Razi

The Jingpho or Kachin people are a South East Asian ethnic group who inhabit the Kachin Hills in northern Burma's Kachin State. They occupy a large and fertile territory rich in natural resources including one of the most exclusive forms of jade in the world. These resources are coveted by the ruling government and this sadly has made the Kachin targets of violence and displacement for many years.

Different ethnic sub-groups belong to the Kachin tribe including the Jinghpaw, Maru, Lashi, Atsi. These are linguistic rather than national distinctions. Each groups dress is colorful but the individual tribes clothing is distinctive and their dialects also differ. 

The Kachin textiles are woven on backstrap looms and have predominantly geometric patterns. The women’s skirts are usually comprised of three narrow bands and these wrap skirts can take months to weave. When learning to weave, the woman first masters the “mother pattern” which runs in supplementary weft down each vertical end of the finished cloth. The patterns vary between sub groups.

For contemporary Kachin people these textiles remain a visible symbol of their cultural identity and history.

Photo credit

As a Kachin person, I believe that cultural heritage is one of the most valuable things we have. As a community struggling in the midst of political instability and uncertainty, culture offers a constructive tool for building Kachin identity. Even such a regular routine such as weaving clothing at home can be considered an important form of heritage and culture
*Gumring: a member of the Kachin ethnic community of Burma. 

Siamese Dream Design is thrilled to welcome these beautiful hand woven fabrics to our textile collection.

Womens t strap sandals in Kachin textiles
Women's t-strap sandals in Kachin textiles

 Vegan women's sandals in Kachin textiles
Women's t-strap sandals in Kachin textiles

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bali and the magic of Ikat

I think many people fell in love with Bali after watching the infamous Eat Pray Love movie. What's not to love, a woman finding herself in beautiful scenery, peaceful villas and love of course.

Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture beginning around the 1st century AD. 93.18% of Bali's population practices Balinese Hinduism. This makes for gorgeous architecture all around the island. The Hindu spirit is one of religious sharing, actively looking for common ground between the philosophy and customs of different people. 
Bali is renowned for its diverse culture and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, performing arts and of course its textiles. 
Textiles in Bali are powerful symbols, indicating the status and well being of the wearer. It is believed that some textiles are permeated with magical powers, which can protect the wearer against malicious people wishing harm. Certain patterns, such as the black and white, checkered, double Ikat are considered to have protective powers against the evil spirits. They are often used to cover or to dress statues that guard the entrance to a temple or sacred masks like Barong.

The Ikat textiles are frequently a part of elaborate gift exchanges for weddings and special ceremonies. They often use designs and color combinations that are considered traditional in that location. . Every island, weaving village or family has its own patterns and colors that tells them their history. This makes every Ikat special and unique. 

Some traditional designs are no longer made. Only a few women now practice the art.  This is what makes it Bali’s rarest textile.

Ikat is a complex artistic weaving technique used to create images on textiles.  The term Ikat comes from the Malay work mengikat, meaning "to tie".  Its distinctive feature is that the images are dyed onto the threads before they are placed on the loom and woven into the finished fabric,  The threads are first secured to the dying frame and then sections of the design that are to remain undyed are wrapped with a dye-resistant fiber according to the requirements of the pattern.  Once the portion of the design to be protected from the first color are tied off, the threads are removed from the frame and immersed in the dye.  With the exception of white (the natural color of the thread), a separate dye bath is required for each color. Before each dye bath, the threads are reattached to the frame and strips are cut away or added as necessary to ensure that the individual elements have only the appropriate color in the final design.  Even the most complex Ikat patterns are created solely through the tying and dyeing process.

The weavers produce three types of Ikat:
 Warp Ikat - the designs are dyed onto the warp threads that run longitudinally on the loom. In warp ikat the patterns are clearly visible in the warp threads on the loom even before the plain colored weft is introduced to produce the fabric.
 Weft Ikat- the patterns are created on the weft threads that are woven across the warp threads. In weft ikat it is the weaving or weft thread that carries the dyed patterns which only appear as the weaving proceeds. The weaving proceeds much slower than in warp ikat as the passes of the weft must be carefully adjusted to maintain the clarity of the patterns. 
 Double Ikat - the patterns are created on both the warp and the the weft.These are the most impressive textiles to be produced in Indonesia. Called the geringsings and produced exclusively in the small village of Tenganan in east Bali. The only other places in the world where similar textiles are woven are Japan and India.

The people of Tenganan are original Bali Aga people, who believe that the god Indra created humans and taught them the art of double ikat. Their rituals have to be carried out by people who are pure in body and spirit, and that purity is protected by the magical power of the textiles. The textiles also protect the village and they are only worn during major religious events.

It can take between five and eight years to weave a sacred cloth. Only a small number of Tenganan residents are still capable of making geringsing textiles and the technique is passed down from generation to generation.

Amy is off on another textile hunt in Bali. Expect to see some beautiful Ikat upon her return. 

If you get the chance to go enjoy the sea and sand and make sure to experience some of their unique culture and of course keep your eye out for the wonderful textiles.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Colorful Lisu New Year

For four days and nights the Lisu people celebrate the new year with dancing, singing and drinking. Their celebration coincides with the Chinese New Year as the Lisu still adhere to the Chinese lunar calendar.

The preparations for the festivities take place well in advance. Most households will ensure they have a stock of liquor at home, beginning to distil it as soon as they have harvested their corn and rice after the rainy season. Over many weeks, even months before the New Year, the women will be busy making new, eye-catching costumes that will be worn during the New Year festivities.
The traditional female dress is a composition of two or three bright, contrasting colors, such as blue, magenta and orange, with different pieces of floral or other patterned cloth included. It is worn over pants.

credit Jim Goodman

Lisu women are experts at intricate stitch-work. They have many patterns that are considered staples in any good Lisu woman's repertoire of needle-work. Most of  them focus on sewing small tabs of fabric of contrasting colors criss-crossing over one another. There's kua-pia-kua (tail of the bow), pia-goo-ma-kua (tiger's chest), foo-yee-chee (snake's belly)na-hoo-mia-cheuy (hat's eyes) ee-geu-ja-ya (criss-crossing tabs of colored fabric) and ah-na (dog's fang). In the case of ah-na, a woman's workmanship is rated by how small she is able to make the dog's fangs. Usually these patterns appear in the decoration of sleeves, belts and children's hats.

The Lisu are particularly fond of silver. 

During festivals girls wear blouses covered with silver studs and pendants, some girls wear little silver fish in their headdresses.
It is the time when the Lisu ‘spring clean’ their homes. More important, however is the generous way in which they show respect to their ancestor spirits. 

Of all the spirits, Apomo, or Old Grandfather, is revered most of all.  A guardian spirit who safeguards morals, keeps out bad spirits, disease, drought and bandits, A shrine to ‘Apomo’  is set on a slope just above the village, under a big tree. During the new year the men of the village visit the shrine to pay respects and celebrate for a while with Old Grandfather.

Happy New Year To The Lisu People. If you are in the neighborhood stop by, they love welcoming guests for a drink and a dance.


Lisu colorful floor pillows

Lisu handbag

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Teen Jok Hand loom weaving
photo credit

Teen Jok

Mae Chaem Thailand
Sunday drives in the mountains here in Thailand are often an exciting treasure hunt for a couple of textile junkies like us.Nestled in a quiet valley in the mountains of northern Thailand we found Mae Chaem, and the gorgeous Teen Jok textiles.
This sleepy little valley town was celebrating their textile heritage with their annual ‘Teen Jok Festival’. Just like a county fair back home there were beautiful displays and ribbons awarded for the best of show.

We had been familiar with another textile that goes by a similar name, however that one is machine made. Here the Tai Yuan people are known for creating stunning hembands ('teen') on their traditional skirts ( 'phaa sin') using the technique of discontinuous supplementary weft weaving ('jok). Often referred to as “embroidery on a loom”, this technique requires that different colored weft threads be inserted, threaded and picked through the warp threads, thus forming colorful patterns. Sometimes the picking is done with porcupine quills. 
Teen Jok textiles

Many of the hilltribes were also present  dressed  in their traditional clothes and showing off a bit  of their own textile art.

But Teen Jok was the star  of the day and you could feel the pride of the villagers in their textile legacy.
You will be seeing more of teen jok in our future designs. 
Today let me introduce you to these colorful mens neckties. Perfect for those special men who just won't settle for ordinary.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's In A Name

What's In A Name

We have been working on our new children’s line of clothing and footwear for many months. There can be a lot of bumps in the road when you are making a brand new line of products. We finally have enough little shoes and boots, dresses and pants to go ahead and present our ideas to the world. Wait, we need a name for all this adorable little stuff. We thought about using something like "Boho Babies", no we are not really making baby things and a 5 year old might just not be happy being called a baby. "Tribal Tots", hmmm, but we go up to larger sizes that are no longer tots.

DekDoi, as soon as the words came out of Amy’s mouth we both knew this was it.

When we travel to the villages in the mountains often we are there in the afternoons. This is the time the children come out to play. It is such a pleasure to watch these children and their simple methods of play. No electronics, no fancy toys or computers to occupy their time. They run, rocks and pebbles turn into games in the dirt. It’s simple, they are breathless with joy as they speed up and down the hills. Mothers chatting close by with friends while working on their latest embroidery, babies, lots of babies. It’s simple, it’s natural, it’s slow and it is pure joy to watch. Dek Doi means mountain child, it was perfect. Young, wild, free.
So we gathered up some friends, several cameras, a few small children with parents
 in tow and headed out to the country. Thank you Charlotte for living in paradise. An old teak-wood house, mountains, a lake and lots of room for kids to run. 

The children played and the photographers shot as they… well did what children do. 

A blanket, some bubbles, a guitar played by our dear friend Thon and a great day was had by all.

Introducing DekDoi
(Mountain Child)
 by Siamese Dream Design

A friendly neighbor even stopped by to see what we were up to.

A giant thank you to all of our friends who helped make this day possible. We truly love you.

Visit the Children's Shop on Siamese Dream Design to see all of the new children's styles.
 Ethnic fashion for the smaller set.