Fashion brand Kilomet109, headquartered in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi, is reviving the country’s textile traditions with each piece in its men’s and womenswear collections. Manufactured in collaboration with regional artisans from five ethnic minority tribes, the hand-sewn garments are made of fabric created from organic fibers, which are grown, spun, woven, and dyed in and around the company’s studio. We recently spoke with the label’s founder, Thao Vu, about what indigo paste feels like, the centuries-old weaving tools her artisans employ, and how her enterprise is expanding local economies.
What inspired Kilomet109?
The idea began when I approached some Nùng An artisans, [members of] an ethnic minority group from Cao Bằng province—located close to the China border—at a Hanoi textile festival in 2009. The traditional costumes they create and wear are quiet, understated, and simple, and the indigo shade they make [for them] is so deep and different. It caught my eye.
I asked if they’d like to do some experiments with me, and they invited me to visit with them in Cao Bằng. I had just graduated from Hanoi’s London College for Design and Fashion, and decided to make the eight-hour trek up there. I spent the first few days getting to know eighteen women, and learning whose house was whose. Then we started making different shades of indigo, like sky blue, stone gray, and teal green. Even though they’re indigo-dye masters, this was their first time creating these shades. It was also the first time I touched an indigo vine, made dye, and dipped fabric into it. The colors we created on that trip were beautiful. And the texture and feel of the indigo dye paste was so interesting—similar to baba ganoush, or a thick yogurt. From that point on, I was hooked!
How has working with you affected the artisans’ lives and communities since then?
It’s changed the local economy. Some of the women used to have to go to the market and sell fruit, sweet potatoes, rice, and corn. They made [practically] nothing, and didn’t have enough money to pay for their kids’ schooling. Now, their children can go to college and university—and not just in their area, but in Hanoi and other big cities, to study further.
Also, the artisans can afford to buy more tools—not necessarily for weaving, but to help them cut rice during harvesting time, or motorbikes to help them to carry crops up and down the mountains and hills, instead of using a cow or water buffalo.
The artisans’ expertise is applied to every step of your manufacturing process. Tell me about that.
It begins with seed planting and includes cultivation, fabric weaving, and natural dyeing, and continues all the way to designing and sewing the clothes. In each step, we use traditional tools and follow age-old methods. We plant everything ourselves: hemp, cotton, indigo. And we raise our own silkworms by planting mulberry plants to feed them.
What traditional tools are used to make the garments?
To make hemp yarn, the Nùng An have a back-strap loom that requires their hands and feet to operate. The artisans’ homes are also tools for weaving: In their stilt houses, made of wood, straw, hay, and bamboo, there are wood posts throughout that hold the roofs [in place]. They use these posts for stretching the yarn before weaving it. Because you can’t do it alone, four women come together to create the fabric: one holds the thread, the other one counts how many meters they’re going to make, another wraps it around the poles, and another serves as quality control. It looks like a massive spider web of yarn. They’ve been making textiles like this for centuries.
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Flying long distances does a number on our bodies—something that wellness expert Snow Shimazu, founder of the holistic tAir Beautiful, knows all too well. We can credit the grogginess and exhaustion of jet lag to the disruption of our circadian rhythms,Four Seasons New York Downtown spa) works with clients to provide a range of speciality massage and lymphatic cleansing services, but there are also many
Americans spend an average of more than four hours a day on their smartphones—and it’s hardly innocent fun. A new study finds that smartphone addiction can have the same effect on the brain as drug addiction, reducing gray matter and deliv
Artists, chefs, and scientists have long found creative inspiration in mushrooms, and for a variety of reasons. Prized fAdam Fuss—who creates photograms by placing spores on light-sensitive paper and letting them bloom in contact to create an abstra“Mushrooms: The Art, Design, and Future of Fungi,” organized by Francesca Gavin, examines the widespread influence of the humble organism, featuring the work of 40 artistMushroom Book of recipes and observations, artworks by Cy Twombly, and a series of events including a pop-up dinner by chef Skye Gyng
Designer Juliana Huang spent much of her childhood in Taiwan, before moving to Los Angeles after high school. Living halThe Wax Apple—affectionately named after her favorite fruit native to Taiwan—she’s able to share a little piece of her culture with a
When British editor Penny Martin and the creators of BUTT and Fantastic Man launched The Gentlewoman, in 2010, it boldly introduced a new type of “women’s magazine.” Redefining notions of female aspiration and personal sThe Gentlewoman features candid profiles and in-depth interviews with figures across the age, cultural, and professional spectrum—everymini-magazine. Measuring less than 3.5 inches tall, and nearly as thick as it is wide, it’s designed to fit in the palm of your hand,The Gentlewoman’s cover stories to date, including those printed in its earliest (and now rare and sought-after) issues. At once undersIrma Boom fan in your life. With its sleek white cover, it makes for a playful foil to the everyman’s little black book.