How to Integrate Indigenous Cultures into Modern Fashion

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The following guest post, How to Integrate Indigenous Cultures into Modern Fashion is written by Danica, Founder of ethical fashion brand Wild Tussah.

 :: Wild Tussah ::
How to Integrate Indigenous Cultures into Modern Fashion
When it comes to sustainable and ethical fashion, conscious consumers all around the world can't seem to get enough of new, innovative ways to ensure that the clothes and accessories they spend good money on don't contribute to the exploitation of sweatshop workers - or to the destruction of the environment.

Apart from the financial support and fair treatment that modern companies are expected to offer their workers, it is also vital to help them conserve their cultural identity and their traditions, and to show respect towards their way of life.

This is why the integration of authentic ethnic elements into modern sustainable fashion is so important; it doesn't just offer a valuable source of income to people who so desperately need one, it also celebrates and appreciates indigenous cultures and their traditional handicrafts for the art form they actually are.

:: Wild Tussah Weavers ::

I know from first-hand experience that there are a few ways you must work with and integrate cultures into your design so that you end up with happy artisans and happy consumers. My 10 months of living in Vietnam, working directly with the ethnic communities and designing a sustainable handbag line, Wild Tussah, has taught me this.

:: Wild Tussah Cham Weaving Workshop ::

If you are interested in making your own clothes and accessories by working with local artisans, or would like to learn about the process behind ethical designing that happens on location, this is where you will find the inside scoop!

Choosing an ethnic culture
There are a few things to consider before attempting to create modern fashion with ethnic elements. Some questions you need to ask are:
• What specific skills do you need to source?
• What artisanal products would you like to bring to an international market?
• Will the artisans you work with be able to keep up with capacity needs?
• Will you be able to do their skills justice, to pay them a fair wage and still end up with a profitable product?
• Are these artisans comfortable working with foreigners?

:: Mrs Diem using a Loom ::

While your initial love for a culture or location might drive you to design, you have to think on a practical level before starting if you are going to create successfully.

Sourcing the artisans and their skills
The process of finding and selecting the best group of people to partner with involves a lot of research, so let's face it; having a reliable assistant on board who speaks the national language is a must! I really couldn’t have created a handbag line at the speed that I did without my Admin Assistant, Khuê.

From my experience, most local information online is not in English, and depending on the country, most people do not speak English. I found that having Khuê there to translate was invaluable and enabled me to build a relationship with my suppliers.

The initial research process will go something like this if you are on location:

1. Find information on the ethnic group, their skills and traditions.
2. Locate their local shop where they trade or where the closest artisan village is that you can visit.
3. Call beforehand to schedule a meeting time and let them know why you are coming.
4. Speak to the person you’ll be working with once you get there either directly or through a translator about partnership opportunities.
5. Organize time to spend with the artisans and learn about their making process and local traditions.

Delving into the artisan’s culture is extremely important, so allowing yourself time to research and visit their village is crucial. You’ll be able to understand how people live in these communities, and check out the artisans' working conditions. Make sure you take notes on any aspect you think you could help improve in the future should the partnership be successful. Seeing with your own eyes how your products are actually going to be made will help you pay your workers fairly.

:: Wild Tussah visits Cham Kindergarten ::

If you aren’t able to be in the country where your artisans live, you can find other alternatives to sourcing handicrafts. There are online businesses that do the hard work for you; they source the handicrafts themselves and act as a liaison between you and the artisan.

Culture preservation
The next part to this process is to work on the design specifications and create something that will preserve your artisans’ traditions. Culture clash is a major faux pas, so keep in mind the way their handicrafts traditionally look, the tools they use and the way they work. All are building blocks to creating the culture you have come to love and want to preserve. You might think that an old loom, for example, needs to be replaced with a new one, but that isn’t the case if they traditionally use these old looms. What part of the culture are you preserving; the skill; the process of creating; the actual handicraft product; or all of the above?

:: Loom Weights ::

Giving credit
After creating, you can now show your design to the world, and... give credit to your artisans! Giving them a voice; it brings more meaning and depth to your product. They are the reason you started in the first place, so share with the rest of us those who inspired you. When the person wearing your clothing or accessories understands that it took the maker months to complete, they can see more beauty in the piece and the value of it.

I find this part to be the most enjoyable because I get to share amazing stories from real people, and prove that my design has purpose and it is changing lives.

My question to you is, what part of the creation process do you think is the most important when you are integrating indigenous cultures into modern fashion? And which do you think is or would be the hardest?

For more information about women’s empowerment, sustainable fashion, culture preservation, weaving, eco-tourism and anything Vietnam-related, check out Wild Tussah’s blog. To see our handbags, which incorporate Lu and Cham weaves, visit our online shop.

:: Wild Tussah Handbags ::

About Danica
:: Danica Ratte - Wild Tussah ::

Danica Ratte is a travel addict who grew up and went to university in the US; moved to Australia for 3.5 years; and now resides in Vietnam, living out her dreams of designing consciously. She was inspired to start her sustainable handbag line after a life changing 5-week trip through South East Asia. Danica was blown away by local ethnic weavers’ skills and their excitement to teach others about it. After she found out that these weave cultures were endangered of going extinct, she decided she had to work with the artisans directly to help preserve their traditions. Now she asks this question every day: “Do you know where your bags come from?”

Melbourne Frock Swap at Seaworks 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Due to the popularity of last years successful indoor second-hand fashion market held in the historic Seaworks in Williamstown, Melbourne Frock Swap is back, with the first event of the year taking place on Sunday 15 March 2015.

Seaworks is a big and beautiful old boathouse filled with old charm and character, which is now used for functions, exhibitions and events throughout the year. The ladies behind Melbourne Frock Swap have chosen this delightful venue to host their second-hand market, positioned on the waters edge with beautiful views across Port Phillip bay. Melbourne Frock Swap boasts 70+ stalls selling pre-loved gear from fashionista's selling excess clothes and accessories from their wardrobes.

Expect to find frocks, shirts, pants, shoes, tops, handbags, blouses and more, all for a fraction of their recommended retail price. What better way to update your wardrobe, than to shop up at Melbourne Frock Swap; not only are you saving cash but you're also being nice to the environment by buying clothing already in circulation.

If you are looking for a way to part with some of your own wardrobe pieces, why not consider booking a space with Melbourne Frock Swap. You could host a stall on your own, or gather your friends and set up a combined stall together. For the 2015 market at Seaworks in Williamstown, the cost per stall is $60.00 for a 3 x 3 metre site. You will need to bring your own table, racks and chair/s, and think about pricing your wares (highly recommended) prior to the day. Stallholders have access to free parking and loading bays, making it easy for you to set up, and pack up. Check here for more details on how to book a stall with Melbourne Frock Swap.

For all you bargainistas looking for some fancy new wardrobe additions, Seaworks is easy to get to by car, just 10 minutes from the Westgate Freeway, with free parking found nearby, or metered parking at the front of the building. Note there is a $2 entry fee, and it is advisable to bring cash with you to shop for your loot. The good news is, Seaworks is an indoor venue, so the market will run rain, hail or shine.

Williamstown's cafe precinct can be reached within a quick 2 minute walk from the grounds of Seaworks, where you will find an ATM if you run out of cash, otherwise make the most of your day and stop for lunch or a coffee after your shopping spree in the historic harbourside town. Find Melbourne Frock Swap online, and follow on Facebook for all the latest news.


Cut Out + Keep: Around The USA In 50 Craft Projects BOOK GIVEAWAY

Monday, February 16, 2015

In 2003, student Cat Morley started a craft blog to share tutorials for crafts she was making. After publishing over two-hundred of her own projects, Cat's boyfriend Tom built a system to enable other crafters to join up, using the site as a platform to share their own creativity to the world.

That site is Cut Out + Keep; an online community where anyone can make and share their tutorials. There are currently over 50,000 projects found on Cut Out + Keep, covering every type of craft, from over 100,000 contributors all over the world.

The successful couple have now released their first craft book; Cut Out + Keep: Around The USA In 50 Craft Projects.

The book combines craft tutorials with the couple's epic road-trip, where as a reader, you can take a journey through 50 states and craft your way through 50 step-by-step tutorials inspired by each of them.

Cut Out + Keep: Around The USA In 50 Craft Projects is an alternative craft book filled with fun projects inspired by American places, landmarks and fables and legends.

Some of my recycled craft favourites:

* Licence Plate Notebook inspired by Michigan's Motown,
* Jackalope Jewlry Holder inspired by Wyoming's local legend,
* Playing Card Bouquet inspired by drive through wedding chapels in Las Vegas,
* Red Ruby Shoes to feel like you're not in Kansas anymore!

These are obviously just some of many other cool and crafty projects covering crochet, paper craft, sewing, origami, decoupage, lots of yummy food recipes too (UFO cake pops, anyone?) and more.

Cut Out + Keep: Around The USA In 50 Craft Projects is released on 16 February 2015 in the UK, and 17 March 2015 in the USA. Get your hands on a copy via Amazon or publisher Laurence King.

To get you excited, here is a snippet from Cut Out + Keep: Around The USA In 50 Craft Projects; a tutorial to make a Bottle Cap Ring.


In an exclusive Recycled Fashion and Cut Out + Keep promotion, we have one Cut Out + Keep: Around The USA In 50 Craft Projects book to giveaway to one reader. Enter via Rafflecopter below.

Happy Crafting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Great Handkerchief Comeback

Friday, February 6, 2015

The following guest post is written by Marion, co-founder of TSHU

Today, I’d like to tell you why I think the handkerchief is about to make a great comeback, with 6 excellent reasons why:

Be prepared for anything. Having a handkerchief on you means you will always be ready to deal with the unexpected. Spill some coffee? Forgot to grab napkins with that sandwich? Suffering from the heat? Feeling emotional? Submitted to your toddler’s impromptu tantrum and left to pick up the pieces? Affected by seasonal allergies? Sniffling because of a cold? Pull out your handkerchief and save the situation with style.

Every Day Handkerchiefs
Photo by Daniel Bernard

Chivalry. Now, this is one that does not only apply to men. There’s an old saying that one must always carry two handkerchiefs: one for show, and one for blow. Indeed, keep the one you have been using (no matter how) and be ready to offer a clean hanky to the less clever one (aka those who don’t carry a handkerchief around and are facing unexpected messes).

Practicality.We have already covered the unexpected aspect, but having a soft, absorbent cotton handkerchief is also practical. You may not be comfortable blowing your nose at all times, but if you are outdoors in cold rainy weather, enjoy outdoor sports such as skating or skiing, or if you love to bike in the heat or train outdoors in warm weather, you will instantly see the benefits of being able to mop the sweat off your brow or wiping your nose without having your tissue disintegrate.

TSHU Moshe (two-ply)
Photo by Jimmi Francoeur

Environment. That is an easy one. Do you have any idea what kind of waste goes into producing, commercialising and using paper tissues? Every year, more than 3 billion kilos of paper tissues are used and wasted. That is the equivalent of 70 million trees. Just think of how many trees you can save by opting for handkerchiefs?

TSHU Ian & TSHU Andy
Photo by Jimmi Francoeur

Style. Of course, any piece of cloth can do the job, but you can also decide to show others proudly that you are making a statement for the environment. Choose a colourful, bold handkerchief you love – that way you will actually want to carry it around and pull it out in front of others! Handkerchiefs can even work as practical pocket squares – a stylish addition to the suit yet practical if need be.
Are you ready to adopt a handkerchief?

TSHU Elvis
Photo by Jimmi Francoeulr


About Marion

Photo by Daniel Bernard
Creative, passionate and determined, Marion loves to travel, adores sushi and enjoys a good dry martini. She has three boys who keep her feet on the ground. Marion loves new challenges and immediately dive into a new universe and make it her own. In the past, Marion studied painting and drawing as well as art history, managed cultural organizations, worked in communications, coordinated big and small events and worked as part of teams which launched large scale projects. Now, Marion dream of changing the world, one handkerchief at a time.. through TSHU.

Learn more about TSHU:

1. The TSHU Commitment: one tree planted for each handkerchief sold.

For each hanky sold, TSHU will plant one tree.

2. Discover TSHU's collection of fashionable yet practical handkerchiefs:

Ladies: here
Gentleman: here

3. Learn how to fold your handkerchief into a stylish pocket square here.

TireFlops: a Fashionable and Sustainable Footwear Solution

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

There are many companies contributing to a greener world, and one such innovative organisation that got in touch via email recently, is GomaVial based in Spain.

These guys recently launched a campaign on Kickstarter; the popular American-based crowdfunding website. The project aims to get the necessary funding to launch a recycled footwear range: TireFlops; high tech sandals with upcycled tyre (or tire for our US and Canadian readers) outsoles.

TireFlops are the result of one year of research and development by GomaVial’s team; mainly chemists and engineers. The company has developed and patented a new technology to treat used tyres by deconstruction. Through deconstruction, the tyre tread can be obtained in full, retaining its physical, chemical and mechanical properties. And since no melting is involved, environmentally unfriendly and energy costly processes such as grinding or incinerating can be avoided.

TireFlops have three elements:

* A vulcanised rubber strap, higher in elasticity than the traditional PVC ones, which means extra grip and comfort.

* Specially formulated EVA to reduce sliding when in contact with water, balanced to allow comfortable walking.

* The tyre tread outsole; the key element in the design, encompasses maximum durability and grip on dry or wet surfaces.

GomaVial was founded in 2010 by three young engineers and entrepreneurs, and from the very beginning, has developed innovative and high tech products and materials, by upcycling car tyres, for a greener and more sustainable world. The company has received many awards for their contribution to technology and sustainability.

With just a few weeks to go, GomaVial's TireFlops project needs your support!  Head over to Kickstarter to pledge, here.

*Disclaimer* This blog post is by no means sponsored or paid, I simply wanted to spread the word on what will be a great upcycling initiative; fashioning old tyres into footwear.

I Didn't Throw It Away

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Singaporean based blogger, eco-crafter and workshop facilitator Agy, of Green Issues by Agy asked if I'd like to take part in a fun blog train, exploring items that have been in my possession for over 20 years, which for whatever reason, I have not thrown away.

After looking around the house yesterday, I wondered what I could talk about.  Most of my belongings are close to, or over 20 years old, because the majority of which have been sourced second hand; that being said it doesn't necessarily mean said items have been in my own possession for 20 years.

It goes without saying that bits and pieces one tends to keep for a period of time, hold some sort of sentimental value, and with that, fond memories.

Quasimodo the Rabbit. 

Some children get attached to a teddy as a comfort toy, others prefer a security blanket, and many do not get attached to a single thing. As a child, I grew to love to a soft toy rabbit, with a front zip all the way up its belly; supposedly for pyjama storage. The rabbit, propped wearily against my boots above, I (or maybe my Mum) affectionately named rabbit 'Quasimodo', because of its hunched back.

Tatty, loved and pink, wearing a t-shirt designed for a Garfield soft toy (that you might also remember, if you were a child of the 80's), Quasimodo fails to have fluff on one ear. My Mum tells me I would stroke the fur of my rabbit's ears to get to sleep, so much so, that hardly any fluff remains. 

I can't remember when I decided I didn't need my rabbit anymore, but I still have it.. of course, stored in the top of my wardrobe. You may wonder how it remained so pink in colour - it didn't, my Mum dyed it, regularly. 

Queen Coronation Tea Cup

I do love a vintage tea cup, of which I have a collection.  This tea cup, part of my collection, is a little bit special; given to my Mum as at a street party to celebrate the Queen Elizabeth's 11 coronation, where all children were given one as souvenir. 

Admittedly, I not much of a Royal fan, but this mug represents where I come from, and I can't forget that.  I have called Australia home for ten years now, and while Melbourne holds my soul, Britain still has my heart. They say you can take the girl out of London, but you can't take London out of the girl .. and the tea cup, well it reminds me to remember that.

Grandma's Leaf Brooch

This brooch is one of a few pieces that has been passed down by my late Grandmother.  I hold in my possession, a few jewellery pieces and accessories from both Grandmothers, and wear different pieces on different occasions.  I like to ponder where my Grandmothers' would have bought or when they were given their jewellery to wear.  Neither were particularly wealthy, but both enjoyed a sparkle or two.

Silver Watch

Another gift from my Mum; a mechanical Swiss silver watch she found in a British charity shop.  I'm not much of a watch wearer, but when I do wear choose to wear one, this is the only piece I will wear.

Ankle Boots

I have a slight confession; these beloved boots have not actually been in my possession for 20 years, but they are original vintage beauties, made in Brazil in the 1960s.

I found these boots at Paddington Market in Sydney, 13 years ago, and wore them out in Sydney's clubs that night, without a flinch.  These days, my boots sit pretty in my wardrobe; my feet couldn't handle their 9cm height anymore - that said, I'd never get rid of them. Ever.

That was fun! a trip down memory lane, and a personal thought for my attachment with old stuff.

Yesterday saw Jill from Creating my way to Success sharing her 20 year old possessions, and next up Sharon from A Vintage Crafty Adventure, shares her vintage belongings.  Thank you for organising, Agy.

Fabric Scrap Brooch Workshop

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It has been many months since I've pulled out my craft supplies, or even stitched a thread. I shall not tell stories of woe as to why my craft remains non existent, other than to highlight my oh-so-busy life with children, and the spare time that I do have tends to be focused on writing; a growing passion and possible future career.

Having said that, I have missed teaching recycled craft workshops, so when Nanna Cool Markets asked if I'd like to present a class at their last event, I jumped at the idea.

Putting together bits and pieces of scrap fabric, scissors, brooch pins, my glue gun, needles and thread, I whisked a basket filled with otherwise useless material to a Nanna Cool Market's craft room, ready to teach a lovely group of ladies ways to turn little pieces of odds and ends into rosette flowers in my Fabric Scrap Rosette Brooch Class.

Using a twisting technique, pins, and a needle and thread, fabric can be hand-sewn into an attractive brooch to add to your lapel, brighten up a handbag, or attach a hair pin to wear in your hair.

Each completed brooch finished on the day represented a completely unique and individual style to each participant.

Here is one workshop participant, Ingrid, modelling her completed brooch on her gorgeous refashioned op shop dress:

I really enjoyed teaching recycled craft again, and hope to repeat another class with Nanna Cool Market, offering a different recycled activity next time.


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