Myanmar designers put ethical twist on local fashion

dodano: 11 września 2017 przez redblog

With Myanmar emerging as a manufacturing hub for mass-produced clothes, a crop of young designers are using homegrown fashion to preserve the country’s sartorial heritage and reshape the sweatshop model.

Inside her boutique in downtown Yangon, Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw crafts her own designs using traditional patterns and fabrics, many from ethnic minority groups, to make A-line skirts, dresses and tops.

On another she adds the high-collared neckline of the inngyi — a tight top usually worn by Myanmar women along with a fitted, sarong-like skirt — to a flirty pleated dress.

“We Burmese really care about our own ethnic and traditional clothes,” she told AFP in the shop, over the whir of sewing machines. “When you modernize the traditional patterned clothes, you have to be careful they’re not too flashy — or too modern.”

Myanmar is fiercely proud of its traditional garb, which was largely protected from the influx of homogenous Western fashion now ubiquitous across Southeast Asia by the former military junta.

For 50 years they shut the country off to foreign influences and tightly controlled what was worn in all official media.

Designer Ma Pont said she was not allowed to show even a flash of shoulder or armpit when she used to make clothes for military-controlled TV channels in the 1990s.

“We were not really free,” she said.

Fashion was particularly politically charged in that era, when many women would secretly ask their tailors for designs that imitated the distinctive style of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Local media reported the purple outfit she wore the day she was released from almost two decades of house arrest soon became a popular sight on Yangon’s streets.

Today the democracy icon, who last year became the de facto leader of Myanmar’s first civilian government in generations, is still widely admired for the elegant Myanmar outfits she wears at public appearances.

But while many still prefer traditional clothes, especially the sarong-like longyi worn by both men and women, fashions are starting to change.

Shopping malls aimed at Yangon’s growing middle class are sprouting up around the city, while on its fringes factories are churning out clothes for international brands drawn to its pool of young, cheap labor.

It is a flip side of the industry that boutique designer Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw has seen firsthand.

As a teenager she spent months toiling in garment factories on the outskirts of the commercial capital — a job that earned her 2,000 kyat a week (now worth about $1.45).

The experience made her determined to open her own boutique and train young women in the art of clothes-making to make sure they never suffer the same fate.

“I started to see things, like how you could only spend 10 minutes for your lunch or you could not go to the toilet whenever you wanted because it would disrupt their production line,” she said. “If fast fashion and unethical fashion continues, then we’re the ones to be suffering.”Read more at:QueenieAu | formal wear sydney

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