Look deeper beyond the usual designs found in mainstream boutiques and you will discover a treasure trove of South-East Asia’s fashion.
The most magnificent handwoven fabrics, Cambodia’s ikat, Thailand’s mudmee, Indonesia’s songket, Malaysia’s tenun and much more, are not only rich in heritage but visually arresting too.
A fashion showcase was recently held in Kuala Lumpur to highlight the craftsmanship of such beautiful textiles.
Named Tenun, the event aimed to promote South-East Asia as a global centre of excellence for textile and innovation.
“The craftsmanship and skills required for weaving fabrics have been refined over extended periods of time, allowing for the creation of distinctive qualities that define the identities of various regional fabrics,” reads the press statement.
“These glorious materials are a source of national pride and a priceless national art form developed from a valuable history of knowledge steeped in tradition.”
Interestingly, as the global fashion scene shifts its focus to promoting diversity, all-things historical and with an heirloom appeal are becoming much more sought after.
According to the organiser, the region’s weaving communities, particularly rural women, are at the heart of Tenun, and they must be allowed and encouraged to continue with the skills that they have perfected.
Unfortunately, many of them lack basic resources, as well as access to markets, financing and other forms of support, which is exactly what needs to be changed.
Unlike the usual fashion showcases, Tenun wishes to focus on the communities that are vital to the region’s traditional fashion, culture and shared heritage.
The first Tenun Fashion Week was held online in October last year. With video presentations, panel talks and other activities, it celebrated the craftsmanship found within 45 weaving communities from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
They highlight different weaving traditions such as ikat, supplementary weaving, twining and tablet-weaving, and materials, including own-grown cotton, silk, hemp, abaca, pina and doyo.
Additionally, a live runway show featuring 36 of these communities was staged in December at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching in Sarawak.
Tenun also contributes to the Asean Strategic Plan on Culture and Arts 2016-2025 by enabling intercultural contact and collaboration, fostering a sense of ownership for Asean’s cultural heritage, and harnessing culture for inclusive and sustainable development.