While traveling through Thailand, I became very inspired by the tribal culture of Northern Thailand in the way they live, dress, speak, and of course, their art. They grew their own food and made their own clothes. However, while talking to one of the older folks in the village, I realized that many young people weren't present. New generations are leaving their villages to move to the city mainly taking factory jobs because money is guaranteed. When an older generation woman passes, she takes with her thousands of years of techniques, designs, and lifestyle. There's no written language in these mountains, so nothing is saved.
However, in that one afternoon, I saw that there was something very unique about their textiles. An old woman said to me that she still has her dress that was a wedding gift from her mother-in-law 30 years ago. At first I thought to myself, "How is that possible? 30 years?" Then I saw the level of care that was put into each strand of fiber before it is weaved into a piece of fabric.
In the world today, Fast Fashion is a global phenomenon, yet one of the most wasteful industries that continues to pollute the Earth. The weaving and embroidery culture in the mountains are dying, and we are just becoming more wasteful every day.
I came up with an idea; if I could possibly help these villages apply their techniques to modernize their concepts and designs, then the children might want to learn their mothers' crafts. For many years, they would only do one design of dresses, shirts, and bags because they knew it would sell. Being creative doesn't pay when they don't know who will buy it so they opt for the safe choices.
However, when there's an oversupply of goods, the price goes down. To the point where the new generation would go work for fast fashion factories simply because of the financial security. Many of them who don't have a means to go out on their own end up getting sold to sex trafficking rings which is still prevalent in Northern Thailand.
I have met many wonderful women with stories, one named Pa Ni who is the head of the training center who helps us with all the designs and training the women so they can take their projects home while they look after their families.
Tushies mission is to assist in updating the products and designs while keeping their traditional techniques, therefore empowering these women in their local communities by developing skills.
If you're curious about my personal journey, click here.