We have been following with some enthusiasm the blog of a British woman now living in Asia whose pen name is "Donna Wanderlust". When we first found her blog earlier this year it was because she wrote some very high quality pieces (with great pics) about Japan and especially kimono culture (our site's core theme).
So when she announced to her blog followers about textile tours among the hill tribes of Vietnam we got excited for two reasons: It was about honoring ethnic textiles, cultures and their people (this is the heart of what we're about at YokoDana Kimono), but would also do so without exploiting the peoples being visited, nor harm their environments. This combination of a passion for ethnic textiles with the respectful approach to the people being visited by tours -- well, we just knew that many of our site regulars and visitors would love it as much as we do.
So, we asked Donna if we could just quote in full her email to her members and she of course agreed. I want to stress we are not posting this for financial reasons, but because we believe in what she's doing.
Below is her introduction email sent to her blog's mail-list. If anyone goes on one of these (we can't, these old bones won't let us travel like that any longer :} ) please keep us posted!
Here is her announcement email: 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 (too name a few). I felt guilt.
Not because I couldn’t buy everything from them that they wanted me too, but because as someone who has worked in, and teached 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 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 Tours 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.
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?
As I said in yesterday’s email this tour can’t fail to boost your creativity and wanderlust, just like it did mine.
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 to add some ethnic inspiration to your creative business, Haute Culture’s Textile Tour of Vietnam 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.
NERVOUS ABOUT TRAVELING ALONE?
Don’t worry! 90% of 400 people that completed my survey were also planning to travel alone. You’re not alone. You're going to make loads of new friends.
Don’t let the fear of traveling solo result in staying stagnant. I can promise you that it is far more empowering and inspiring to take a trip by yourself than it is to stay at home waiting for that “someone” to come with you! Let me know if you have any questions about this?
To go to Donna's site, hauteculturefashion.com about all this click-push HERE: http://hauteculturefashion.com/textile-tour-vietnam/