On the banks of the Mekong River, the charming town of Luang Prabang perches, alive with ancient temples, begging bowls and orange-robed monks, as well as western tourists who like to feed them. Indigenous Hill Tribes live in Laos villages nearby, among them the Hmong, whose colorful textiles are known throughout their diaspora in China, Thailand, Minnesota.
Here in Luang Prabang, I hear of a new textile studio forming. Local artisan, Hongkham Xiong and London designer Heather Smith, are coming together to keep the remarkable textile crafts of this region alive, and to breathe fresh air into their making. The result is Passa Paa. The language of cloth.
I finally meet Heather and Hongkham last summer at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and fall in love with their silk shawls - designs inspired by Hmong textiles and printed by women in Luang Prabang. I thrill to see how this collaboration has bloomed into a gorgeous product. The silk is the finest hand-woven silk from a women's co-operative in Cambodia, brought to Laos for the imprint of the Hmong designs, appliqué, and blanket stitching. Ali MacGraw threw the shawl over her shoulder and got inspired. You can find her favorite enhancing the ali4ibu spring/summer collection.
Suede appliqué reinforces their organic handspun, handwoven cotton pillows, already Ibu favorites. And now the shawl arrives - fresh and fluid as the river off of which the Hmong live. Strong as the history that has shaped them, flowing through the artisans hands and beyond into something both old and new, something better, something possible. I love being a part of that. I imagine you do, too.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker