17.jpg

MIAO

Womenswear collection inspired by the Chinese ethnic minority.

Published by TIMID Magazine.

The Miao minority is made up of various tribes with different cultures and histories, and every tribe is identified by their distinctive form of dress.

 

Traditionally, they did not have a written language, and instead, used the craft of embroidery to record their stories onto garments. Although originating in China, the Miao have a history of migration due to continuous conflicts with ruling government parties. Those that have remained in China largely reside in the mountainous rice-terrance areas of the Southeast (Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi). Elements of layering and qualities of the color palette were derived from visual references of the rice-terrance landscapes. 

Inspired by the peoples and their story of migration, I used drapery and embroidery to embody a concept of movement-as if the garments themselves were a map of their nomadic journeys.

 

Photography: Rakshita Arvind

Models: Lauryn Bryan & Catarina Vaughan

Hair & Makeup Artist: Bryony Robertson

Within China, many minority groups face segregation and systemic discrimination, and as a result, a majority of Miao currently struggle with poverty. As most Miao live in underdeveloped rural areas, the children struggle to find decent education, or have to travel great distances to attend school. Consequently, many older daughters in Miao families sacrifice their own education, working at a young age in order to help support her younger siblings’ futures. Many of these girls don traditional Miao clothing and move to larger cities in search of work in the booming tourism industry. They work as performers, dancing and singing traditional Miao songs at tourism hotspots, or sell Miao heritage products, such as embroidery work or bags. However, they are oftentimes overworked, under-appreciated, and exploited by the communities and tourism agencies. 

How we can help the Miao and Hmong people now: 

Although it is very difficult to directly aid Miao tribes within China, we can help them gain exposure and recognition of their culture and heritage by sharing information and learning about their story.

For the Miao and Hmong that have migrated outside of China, we can support refugees and nonprofit organizations that aid Hmong communities.

Furthermore, another key means to contribute is by supporting local Hmong-owned small businesses. Many western fashion companies culturally appropriate and exploit Hmong designs without giving any recognition or credit. By purchasing goods from Hmong-owned businesses rather than these corporations, we can support Hmong craftsman and help protect their heritage.

 

Nonprofit organization supporting Hmong refugee communities in Minnesota, USA: https://hmong.org/

More information about Hmong:

https://www.hmongembroidery.org/index.html

https://www.mnhs.org/hmong

http://hmongstudies.org/ClarkinHSJ6.pdf

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/d14cc20c836c4c549c4c1a5759599f14

 

Other Resources:

Miao Costumes from Guizhou Province, South West China by Deryn O'Connor

Miao Textiles from China by Gina Corrigan

H'mong Batik: A Textile Technique from Laos by Jane Mallinson, Ly Hang, and Nancy D. Donnelly

Clothings and Ornaments of China's Miao People by Kuang Shizhao

Hmong Refugees in the New World: Culture, Community and Opportunity by Christopher Thao Vang

Her Stories Podcast, available on Spotify