THE CHAM PEOPLE
The Cham people are spread out throughout Vietnam; some live in the Mekong Delta and others around the South Central Coast Region. Traditionally, the Cham people cultivated a variety of cotton plants called Cac Boi, and also grew mulberry leaves to feed silkworms and produce their own silk. They spun their cotton and silk into fibers and dyed their textiles in a wide variety of colors using natural dyes that were extracted from indigenous plants. However, nowadays, the Cham people find the ease of buying pre-dyed and spun threads at the market as their preferred method of acquiring weaving materials.
Depending on what they were making, the traditional Cham artisans would use two types of looms. The ‘daneng aban khan’ loom is used to make cloth sheets, and the ‘daneng jihdalah’ loom is used for longer, narrower sheets of fabric, such as belts. Most artisans weave scarves, clothing, sarongs, handbags, wallets, purses and woven storage boxes for their own use and for selling to tourists. Each brocade is unique in terms of its patterns, motifs and designs, even when they are created by the same weaver. The colorful weaves frequently feature basic geometric shapes, clouds, dragons and animals that represent what the weavers see around them. These patterns also act as a non-verbal language in their communities, and are often indicative of the wearer’s social standing.
THE LU PEOPLE
The Lu people are a very remote group who live in the northern mountains of Vietnam. They are distinctly known by their black teeth, which are dyed with a benzoin resin paste and seen as a symbol of beauty. The Lu people start learning how to weave using traditional techniques at a young age. Since their traditional process of cultivating threads, dyeing them, weaving them into textiles and then embroidering them takes a very long time, their weaves often take 3 to 6 months to complete.
The Lu skirt is the most intricate piece of their clothing, and is what Wild Tussah use on their popular Day to Night bags (left). It includes 3 different pieces of cloth which are sewn together by hand in a tubular shape. The upper part is woven in a dark brown thread and joined to the waistband, featuring yellow and red horizontal, parallel lines. The middle part is woven in silk with various patterns - with the rhombic or diamond shapes being the most popular - and then embroidered with cotton thread. This part takes the longest to make, as the artisan must weave meticulously when creating the special patterns. The skirt’s bottom part is dyed black with indigo and decorated with 9 vertical colorful pieces of cloth.
THE BLACK HMONG PEOPLE
The Black Hmong people also live in the northern mountains of Vietnam, but are more easily seen around the popular tourist destination, Sapa, as they live in a nearby village called Cat Cat and are often involved in tourist activities as guides. They farm hemp fields for fibers, and use those threads to create pieces of clothing.
As with Lu people, the Black Hmong, to this day, cultivate their own material, hemp, in this case, dye it with indigo, and then weave the fibers together. They, too, have similar costume pieces, but instead of a turban they wear a headscarf with different colors and patterns; most of the time these headscarves’ colors are more vibrant.
What the Black Hmong people do the most differently from the other two ethnic groups is that they use batik to dye their fabrics. This method involves the use of wax in parts of the weave, which resists the dye, in order to create a design that emerges when the artisans dissolve the wax with boiling water after the fabric has finished dying. When you come to Vietnam, you will see many different kinds of Black Hmong weaves in various weave shops, as they are often incorporated into souvenirs.