Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Vietnam Shopping Spree!

Wandering the cloth aisles in Vietnam.

There’s not much that surpasses the happy thrill of harbouring a healthy stash of gorgeous fabric, ready to be transformed, personalised and worn. Whether it be fabric purchased on a ‘love at first sight’ whim, or a more mindful consideration of textures and colourways, simultaneously assigned to pre-determined patterns, there is a primordial satisfaction in walking away with a new found project in-the-making and a mind filled with pattern-pondering possibilities.

I was lucky enough to indulge my passion for fabric and textiles on a  recent trip to Vietnam and on my travels visited the cloth markets of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An. The cloth aisles are a feast for the eyes, with neatly folded fabrics stacked high in tall, colourful pillars, Expert skill is employed by the vendors to tease out your chosen fabric without disturbing its neighbours ! Sometimes, a well placed foot is required to stabilise a swaying pillar of cloth!
There was an abundance of choice and each design comes in a multitude of different colourways. A certain amount of self restraint is required, but needless to say, I bought a little of something from every market I visited, just in the interest of balance and continuity you understand. I now have the exciting prospect of how best to implement my purchases to their best.

Several of the designs are of a 'Chinoiserie' influence. With regard fabric content, you will be told that much of it is 'Vietnamese silk'. Whilst it does feel amazing and flows through the fingers like water, it tends to share its fibres with a few man-made ones as well. It depends how particular you are really. It is possible to buy beautiful 100% silk scarves as well, (which I treated myself and my mother to).

 The Vietnamese silks can have a beautiful 'shot' effect too, so you enjoy a shimmer of alternating colour in the fabric. There are also several double-sided fabrics such as the pistachio/grey top right below, with which I will probably make a loose fitting dress, using the other side of the fabric as a contrast hem, or binding at the neck and sleeves.
Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries I have spent time in and whilst it had changed significantly since my first trip there twelve years ago, those changes showed encouraging signs of a flourishing and ever evolving South East Asia. Having joined the WTO in 2007 Vietnam is now the second largest rice exporter in the world, (after Thailand) and is also seeing an exciting upturn in its garment and textile industry. It was a pleasure to see this in action and to bring home a few mementos of this burgeoning industry.
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