Conscious Clothing – Sustainable Textiles – Grow Local – Wear Global
Thao Vu, winner of the British Fashion Councils Young Creative Entrepeneur Award is the aspirational visionary designer behind the contemporary conscious clothing brand Kilomet 109.
Established in 2012, Kilomet 109 specialises in seamlessly merging simple yet sophisticated european silhouettes, traditional ethnic details and endangered natural dyeing techniques to create her own sustainable textiles range. The range is practically grown from seed to seam as Thao also owns organic cotton, indigo and hemp plantations employing Nung minority women to weave the natural fibers into her latest collections.
An Inconvenient Truth About Fashion
Unfortunately the fashion and textiles industry is reportedly the 2nd largest industrial contributor to global pollution. In some of the worlds most exploited and disadvantaged countries, locals living in proximity to factories producing fabrics for both mainstream and luxury fashion brands, have had their domestic waterways flooded with toxic chemicals from dyeing.
The industry has a long, complicated and purposely ignorant manufacturing process. Most corporate companies prioritise cutting costs to maximise profits resulting in a fiercely competitive and disfranchised production line. The ‘official’ auditing process often only scratches the surface of the supply chain, providing a scape goat for PR representatives to claim they never knew about the grossly exploited natural and human resources it took to make the $1.99 t-shirt.
Campaign’s like Greenpeace’s The Detox Catwalk have managed to publicly coerce some of fashions biggest brands to initiate production policies that are transparent, environmentally responsible and socially sustainable. Progress being made, but it is slow. That’s where smaller brands and independent designers like Kilomet 109 can make a difference.
Stationed in an inviting attic space over looking a plaid of corrugated rooftops in Tay Ho, Thao’s design studio could easily be mistaken for a research room at the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology, and justifiably so. An avid collector and self-confessed culture lover, Thao’s design inspiration obviously comes from her personal cornucopia of cultural costumes, indigenous artifacts, traditional textiles and a extensive library of books on ethnographic dress. (I am jealous).
Amongst the confluence of her multifarious collection, I saw a basket of natural articles strewn across the floor. Some of the items (like cotton pods) I recognised, but others were indeed alien to me. My curiosity paid off dividends when Thao divulged some of long-lost local knowledge each of the natural treasures had to offer.
Working in collaboration with ethnic minority Nung women, Thao grows and produces her own natural dyes, fibers and detergents then weaves her own fabrics entirely for the production of Kilomet 109‘s fashion collections. (I am beyond impressed).
Watch the video below to see Thao explain the special qualities of the raw natural resources used in her sustainable fashion brand.
Farming Fibres and Processing Pigments
Planning a sustainable slow fashion line takes months of preparation to co-ordinate. Natural dyes, fibers and resources are slaves to seasons and can only be harvested are certain times of the year.
- La Cam – Pink and red flower – Grows all year round.
- Cu Nau – Bush Root that makes orange, brown and skin tones – Harvested April – October every 1 1/2 years.
- Cham – Indigo ranges from deep navy to shades of sky blue – Leaves are harvested every June- July before the flowers bloom.
- Lanh – Hemp – Stems are harvested from July – Oct
- Bông – Organic cotton – Pods are harvested from June- July
- Bồ Kết – Silk detergent – Pods are cropped from Oct to Dec
- Bồ Hòn – Cotton detergent – Nuts are Cropped from Oct to Dec
Conscious Clothing Collection Kilomet 109, 2015
Kilomet 109 presents collections twice per year, exhibiting timeless garments designed to transcend both seasons and conventional fashion trends. Using a combination of traditional Vietnamese natural dyeing, beeswax printing, hand quilting and embroidery, Thao successfully strives to “reimagine the boundaries between cultural preservation and reinvention.”
In my opinion Thao Vu is a exemplary forerunner not only in the Vietnamese fashion scene but to all designers considering launching a new fashion brand. Her undying commitment to social, environmental and sustainable practice for the production of guilt free fashion is worth every single penny. Her diligent passion for preserving and promoting her heritage combine with contemporary cuts is the future of fashion I want to see more of.
Kilomet 109’s forthcoming collection and website is due to launch in February 2016.
What are your favorite natural dyeing techniques? Can you recommend any other inspirational eco fashion brands that Haute Culture readers should know about? Comment in the box below to share your knowledge and promote eco and sustainable fashion.
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Fashion and Water