Fashion with a Social Interest
Chang became interested in the fabric designs of the artisans from the Miao and Dong ethnic groups after she first saw them during a visit to Shanghai Museum in 2009. She told the New York Times that there she found costumes which she expected to be 200 years old, “but they had been made in the last 50 years”.
Realising she would need the special skills of the original artisans in order to incorporate similar fabric designs into her own work, she quickly began commuting to the Chinese village in order to meet with the artisans and forge a working relationship.
One group in Hongzhou produces cotton to make into brocade which is used for jackets. But when they form the fabric for their own use, it is for carrying their babies.
“There are auspicious symbols woven into the material to protect the baby, while also telling the history of the people,” Chang told the New York Times.
In another village, Xijiang, silk dyes are made using tree bark, leaves and moutain flowers.
Chang recently told the New York Times that, early on, she spoke with a translator about how difficult it would be to convince the locals that there was real interest in their work and encourage them to work with her.
“He said no one will do it until you show them it can be done,” she said. “Kids in the countryside get out of high school and go and work in the fast fashion factories. I want to show them what their grandmothers do is cool.”
Out of the initial desire for authenticity in her own fashion designs developed what Chang calls a “social interest” – keeping the artisans in work, thus enabling them to keep their craft alive.
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