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Virya’s Strive for Conscious Fashion in Myanmar – Episode 1

As Virya is planning a ready to wear line for the coming months, our team had traveled to areas where the exotic fabrics are hand-woven with passion by local women. Here is our first photo tale in this episode.

Inle Lake is known for its unique culture and tradition – even more distinctive from the rest of Shan State, a large eastern province of Myanmar. One of the striking feature of its culture is that the fisher folks use their legs to row while they attempt to catch fish with their hands.

Among other cultural uniqueness, Inle is also known for its beautiful hand-woven fabrics – lotus silk and Inle zinmae (ikat patterns) silk..

Inle’s lotus silk is known for its incredible softness and durability. The lotus wears are originated from the Buddhist tradition of offering robes to monks made out of lotus threads, which were meant to last for a long time. Lotus silk is also known for its health benefits.

The intricate nature of the production adds more value of the lotus silk. It takes months to produce the enough threads to make a meter cloth. The lotus stalks also need to be picked at certain time and certain length, usually at the monsoon season when the water level is high in the lake and the stalks are at their longest and best. This is a big part of the livelihoods activity for the Intha and Inthu.

Inle Zinmae are also a well known fabric across the country and the South East Asia. Although the Inle Zinmae patterns can be similar to some of the the south east asia and south asia patterns to the ordinary eyes, the Ikat experts from Chaing Mai University Thailand praise the uniqueness of Zinmae to a great extend and encourage the local weavers to revisit their old tradition.

We visited two places where the Inle Zinmae are produced. Khit San Yin Silk and Cotton House of Inpawkone is led by Ko Nge, who is passionate about reviving the old tradition of Inle as well as providing job opportunities for Inthas and Inthus. His successful business now employs some more than 100 local weavers across Inpawkone and it is a must destination when you visit Inle. He showed us around in his weaving house and explained his incredible journey.

The second place where Inle Zinmae are produced is rather a smaller place than Khit San Yin called A Little Loom. It is a somewhat a socially-minded business promoting vegetable dyes and also training of local weavers. Our visit coincides with an exhibition held at the Inle Heritege Foundation on the history of Inle Zinmae where the professors from Chaing Mai Univiseristy did a presentation on the connetion and legacy of Inle Zinmae in connection to the rest of the south east asia region.

One of the must places when you passed through Nyaung Shwe and Inle is Sun Flower Weaving House which is led by a successful woman entrepreneur Phyu Ei Thein. Sunflower mainly uses organic cotton produced locally and promote the organic and vegetable dying practices through empowering the young women weavers.

Virya is sourcing fabrics from the aboved mentioned unique businesses as we have witnessed how the businesses are run on the ground and the social missions driving these places. It is in our interest to make sure that the mission and the purpose of our suppliers are in line with Virya’s ultimate purpose. Our vision for conscientious fashion in Myanmar is one where local weavers and craftsmen and women get the fair share for the work that they create, where environmental sustainability is considered as part of the production and supply chain, and where consumers are guided by their conscience when buying clothes. And we hope you join our journey in achieving this vision.