The Hmong tradition and color

The Hmong tradition and color, this population are an ethnic minority native of China that, in past centuries, moved to the southern and populated regions of Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, according to their own aspirations for autonomy and territorial independence (the name Hmong in their language, means “free”). The interest in these people arises from the beauty of their products, which is expressed both in traditional clothing and jewelry, the style of which differentiates them from those of all other ethnic groups, revealing details which may consist in color, shape or finishes, especially of the clothes (Red Yao, Flowered Hmong, Black Hmong, White Hmong, Black Thai, White Trousers Yao …). The creators of this magnificent craft are women, who, starting with the collection of raw materials (cotton, flax, hemp), and passing through processing and subsequent weaving, perpetuate with care and precision of detail an aesthetic tradition that has lasted for centuries. Their technique, skill and creative power make each piece a unique object of its kind: unique because of the peculiarities of the details that distinguish not only the various tribes, but also social status and age within the same group; such details may be the color, the length of the dress, or the embroidered subject, which often takes inspiration from traditional legends.
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The Hmong traditional textiles, used in production of various garments and accessories, are characterized by some specific decorative elements, often combined with each other.
In addition to cross-stitch embroidery of mostly geometric patterns, a significant role is played by the dyeing of cotton and hemp through the batik technique and through the use of indigo. Certainly it is interesting to note how indigo, bright green plant that grows practically all over the world, is like a thin thread that unites countries and peoples, different in habits and customs but united by this amazing color. The more intense and dark the blue color, the more it is considered valuable and of good quality; the final effect is then lightened and softened by jewelry and colorful accessories such as belts, headbands and colorful pom poms.
Another technique typical of Hmong textile tradition is to superimpose layers of cotton of different color and then cut the one or the ones above, and bending and then sewing the edges according to various patterns, revealing the color of the underlying layers of fabric. Such textiles adorn especially collars, aprons and baby-carriers.
Generally it can be said that textiles manufactured and used in rural and mountainous areas are made entirely from natural materials, are heavier, thicker and rough; while those used in cities are lighter and characterized by a more refined processing and rich decorative details.
– The skirts of a thousand folds
It is said that it was the sight of an open latania leaf to inspire a woman the model of the first Hmong skirt with a thousand folds.
The latania is a type of palm tree that grows in areas inhabited by the Hmong and is used, dried and woven, to build roofs of houses, baskets and conical hats worn throughout South-East Asia as a protection against rain and sun.
Currently two types of skirts can be found on the market: one is simple, easy to fit and cheaper, often in synthetic material, and with folds pre-built by sewing machine, used mainly in cities and by young women; the other, more beautiful and sophisticated, in natural fabrics and pleated entirely by hand up to a number of about 200 folds and an overall length of up to five meters, is prevalent especially in villages and mountain areas.
The classic model is composed of three horizontal bands joined together: the first at the top is plain indigo; the second presents batik designs in shades of indigo alternated with embroidered motifs in red braid with linear applications; the third, finally, is composed of a series of typical Chinese cotton prints of flowers and birds, or is cross-stitch embroidered with beautiful geometric patterns in bright colors. Then the skirt is edged with a strip of black or dark blue fabric.
The batik or embroidered bands of skirts that are no longer usable are kept to assemble new skirts, which will then incorporate very old pieces of textiles of particular value.

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