Hi Everyone, Donna here, today I wanted to speak from the heart and share with you the real reason I feel compelled to turn Haute Culture Fashion from a blog into a ethical and sustainable tour company.
Since moving to Vietnam four years ago (long before I even started the blog), I traveled South-East Asia as much as I could to learn about ethnic textiles, traditional dress and cultural visual identities.
Since starting the blog there has been three very memorable encounters that made me reconsider what I was doing with my life. By this I mean, backpacking on a shoe-string, walking/driving/biking almost aimlessly into the mountains, somehow learning about textiles, photographing people, then walking away and writing about it. Sounds cool but nearly every time I left a hill tribe, such as the Karen, Kayan, Hmong, Akha, Yakan, Lolo, Tboli and Dara-Ang (to name a few). I felt guilt.
Not because I couldn’t buy everything from them that they wanted me to, but because as someone who has worked in, and taught fashion and textile design for nearly 20 years, I knew I could help them make more saleable products that could drastically improve their income and the preservation of their seemingly dying crafts, if I stayed.
The three really memorable encounters were; the Black Lolo people of Vietnam, the Tboli people in the Philippines, and the Dara Ang people in North Thailand. With almost non-existent passing trade, all three groups lived in very remote areas, seemed desperate to sell, and one group didn’t even have enough money to eat.
These three ethnic groups showed me that despite their talent having enormous potential to help pull them towards prosperity, their visual identity and textiles were in real danger of extinction due to a lack of custom. More and more women were leaving their villages and heading to the cities in search work. I felt like I was taking from them. Taking their textiles, taking their photos (by taking I mean buying and asking, no stealing or anything) to gain more followers, visitors and opportunities for me and my blog.
But what was I giving back? How could I give back?
Then last September 2016 I received 3 messages in one month asking if I ran textile tours. This concept grew and grew in my mind and seemed like the perfect way to combine my skills a teacher, traveler and textile lover!
So after speaking with a few contacts I had made in the travel industry, and getting a overwhelming response from my survey in November, I decided to go for it and partner up with two fantastic tour companies; Green Trails in Thailand and Asia Plus in Vietnam.
Together we have curated hands-on creative tours, centered around artistic hill tribes who’s textiles are in danger of dying out. The plan is not JUST to take my fashion loving fans to visit them, do a workshop and leave, but to invest 50% of the tours profit into projects that will help to encourage the continuation of their traditional textiles and dress after we’re gone.
We will do this by providing and connecting our artisans with the equipment, materials, mentorship and platforms they need to enable them to make and sell more of their textiles, with a focus on creating a sustainable income from it.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?
Haute Culture Textile Tours are designed to be as authentic and immersive as possible. I have personally worked with each and every women who will demonstrate and teach you how to create the same textile techniques they use in their own traditional dress. You will learn to stitch, weave, dye, batik, embellish and embroider a variety of cool keepsakes that you will treasure forever!
Whether you want to join us for your own personal practice or your creative business, Haute Culture’s Textile Tours will leave you with a bag full of handmade projects, fingers full of new found skills, and a camera bursting with memories you created with some of the most fashionable artisans in the world.
Each year I will continue to travel the world one country at time and partner with new artisans and tour companies to bring you exciting, creative and ethical textile tours you will never forget!
You can read more about our textile tours here and if you have any questions at all please feel free to email me at Donna@hauteculturefashion.com or comment below.
Love and safe travels