Whether you visited one of our shops in Luang Prabang (lucky you!) or ordered something from our online shop, did you ever wonder how these textiles came into fruition? Did you ever question where the raw materials were from? Who made these products? Yes? No? Well, in any case, let’s delve into the production process of these textiles Made in Laos and answer questions that you may (or not) have…
What does Made in Laos entail?
It all starts with the design. Inspired by traditional Lao motifs, our Head of Design & Production, Lear, designs all our products. They reflect a balance between tradition and innovation. Societies are dynamic and evolving and we believe that traditional crafts should be too. Whether we’re working with the weavers in our Luang Prabang studio or with artisans from around Laos through our Village Weavers Project, our work is rooted in the textile traditions of Laos. However, we appreciate and nurture innovation in our products and designs.
Some of our new products now sport a “GI” (Geographical indication) tag certifying that this silk was produced in Luang Prabang.
Once we’re all happy with the design, we start with the finest, locally sourced natural and organic raw materials. We work mainly with silk, cotton, hemp, jungle vine and bamboo. When it comes to cotton, we favor organic handspun cotton for our more contemporary range. Whereas silk is our go to for our more traditional range. Going a step further in ensuring that we work exclusively with raw material from Laos, some of our new products now sport a “GI” (Geographical indication) tag certifying that this silk was produced in Luang Prabang.
We use natural dyes for some of our products and where we can’t achieve the desired colors with plants, we use EU-approved chemical dyes. Those past years, we’ve reintroduced natural dyeing in many artisan communities around Laos. Over the years, with the availability of cheap synthetic dyes, they had put aside the beautiful dyestuff their mothers and grandmothers used for ages. We’ve been trying to curb this and contribute to the revival of natural dyeing in Laos.
The production of 100 cushion covers will require 70 days
The dyed threads are then used for weaving. The products are woven on floor looms at our Living Crafts Centre in Luang Prabang or in our partner villages across Laos. We oversee all aspects of production to ensure the highest quality products as well as the use of environmentally friendly techniques, both while working with our team in Luang Prabang and with the artisans from around Laos.
Making products by hand is time consuming (but so worth it, right?)… For example, it will take 40 days for our artisans to make 50 cushions using the tapestry technique! And the production of 100 cushion covers will require 70 days. If you want to learn more about some of the artisans we work with (the latest to join our Village Weavers Project), have a look at the blog we dedicated to them. Read this blog to learn more about these villages in northern Laos.
Village Weavers Project or how our products are Made in Laos
Through our Village Weavers Project, we work with hundreds of artisans around Laos. The Village Weavers Project is a series of initiatives that create economic opportunities for artisans in rural locations around the country. We help develop ranges of handicrafts that combine craftsmanship and tradition with artistic creativity and market knowledge. Our team of weavers, dyers, designers and tailors transfer their skills to aid artisans to make a better living from handicrafts.
The aim is to help the artisans produce more marketable textiles and thus make a living from their craft.
Once we select a village partner, we start our work by doing a value chain analysis of the artisan industry. We analyse each step of value chain from the raw materials, to the product development, to the production process, quality control, and market access. Through our analysis, we determine which areas of the value chain are weak or broken. Then we discuss our findings with the village and propose a training programme to address these areas. The final aim is to help the artisans produce more marketable textiles and thus make a living from their craft.
This activity was supported by ECL Project which is funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).
EIF is an Aid for Trade partnership in action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Operational since 2009, the EIF is a multi-donor program that supports the LDCs to become more active players in the global trading system by helping them tackle supply-side constraints to trade.
ECL Project intends to promote private sector-led economic growth in the least developed Northern Region of the country in response to the Government’s eight National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP). The project consists of three components: Improvement of the local business environment, Enhancement of productivity and exports of critical sectors, and project management.