Jenn Wong, GGP’s in-house designer, just returned from Thailand and Cambodia where she met with several of our artisan partners and visited their work sites and shops. Below is Jenn’s report from Thailand. Stay tuned for her experiences in Cambodia!
First stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand. For nearly 10 years now, GGP has worked with Burmese refugee artisan groups. I met with our long time partner, Borderline, a fair trade collective working with Burmese refugee communities along the Thai-Burmese border. Borderline’s director, Sylvia, and I visited Lahu Women’s Organization (LWO) and Women’s Development Group (WDG) in Chiang Rai Provinces, as well as Karen tribe villages in Mae Wang province where many indigenous tribes have settled. Here we met with artisans who hand-weave textiles, hand-embroider, and sew beautiful pieces for GGP collections.
During these visits we walked through the history of traditional and cultural Burmese dress. There are many techniques that have been established over time, including hand embroidery, backstrap weaving, pedal loomed textiles, cut and sew pieces, and natural dying processes. I was blown away by the extensive amount of time and work that goes into each handmade piece.
Close up of traditional Lahu tribe dress covered in metal beads, embellishment, and cut and sew pieces. These pieces are well-preserved in the household and only worn during weddings and large festivities.
Traditional backstrap loom used to make scarves and textiles for accessories.
Petal loom used to weave a variety of textiles. Artisans work on this particular loom weaving a few inches at a time each day in order to achieve full pieces to assemble into finished product.
This textile is entirely hand-loomed and is made of natural cotton threads, dyed with natural dyes. This is a variation of the textile used to make GGP’s Chimmuwa Journals.
A demonstration of hand-embroidered textiles. These intricate pieces are used to make GGP’s Thai-Burmese Large Tote Handbags.
GGP’s designer, Jenn Wong and Women’s Development Group (WDG) artisans reviewing textiles and fabrics for upcoming designs for Fall 2016.
Aside from the opportunity to see the story behind the artisans’ remarkable work, another reason for GGP in-person site visits is to understand the artisans’ day to day; where they conduct their work, their family life, traditions and culture, and any external challenges they face.
One of a few Karen village tribes in Mae Wang province. Many of the communities in this province rely on agriculture and farming for income; while craft production supplements a family’s earnings
Traditional backstrap weaving is a dying art form in the villages. However, there are still women who continue to carry on the tradition of weaving these colorful textiles for themselves and for the market.
Colorful Karen tribe tunics traditionally worn by men and women. Each piece is hand sewn and hand embroidered.
Generous hospitality is something that cannot go unmentioned here. Our Karen hosts were so kind and kept us fed around the clock.
Jenn, Borderline, and Karen tribe artisans on the last day of the visits.
Visiting our artisan partners to better understand their communities, the challenges they face, and the environment in which they operate in is a vital aspect of GGP’s work. We make a constant effort to understand how the different elements affect communities’ livelihoods and we strive to ensure that our artisan communities are stable and healthy. More importantly, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the impact GGP has on the artisan groups reflects what is true to our mission.
To learn more about the GGP’s collaborations with Borderline and Thai-Burmese refugees, please click here.