Traditional Vietnamese silk continues its journey

Friday, 2018-03-16 17:13:04
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High quality Vietnamese silk can satisfy fastidious customers.
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NDO – Famous lands for traditional silk are dotted throughout the S-shaped country in a typically traditional and distinctly beautiful style. Throughout Vietnam, there are Ha Dong, Nha Xa and Co Chat silk in the North; Hoi An and Ma Chau silk in the Central; Bao Loc silk in the Central Highlands; and the famous Tan Chau silk area in the southern An Giang province, with My A satin having become legendary.

Despite the invasion of imported goods, with a superior competitive advantage in price and design, these lands still preserve their silk handicrafts amidst the fluctuations.

The keepers of Vietnamese silk

The most famous land of ancient silk must be Ha Dong, a suburban district of Hanoi, where Van Phuc silk village is situated. Van Phuc silk was regarded by the French colonists as one of the finest handicraft products in Indochina. It made its debut at the Marseille International Fair in 1931. To the south, Co Chat (Nam Dinh province) is also famous for its traditional silk. Since the 1940s, the village has maintained its handicraft which has won high prizes at international fairs that seek the quintessence of an Indochinese handicraft village.

Artisan Trieu Van Mao passed away many years ago but his merits to the silk village of Van Phuc have been acknowledged. He restored Van Phuc silk’s ancient patterns, especially “vân” (vein) silk (silk with hidden patterns inside), a specialty only found in Van Phuc. In the 2000s, Trinh Bach, a cultural researcher, joined Trieu Van Mao in successfully restoring 18 Hue imperial uniforms, contributing to the preservation of the craft village’s cultural values.

The descendants of late artisan Trieu Van Mao continue to run his business. Trieu's daughter-in-law, artisan Nguyen Thi Tam, who was honoured as one of ten of Hanoi’s Notable Citizens in 2015, now manages the Trieu Van Mao Silk Weaving facility. After fluctuations in the silk industry, consumers nowadays want to know the origin of the silk products. Tam's facility, as well as many other silk makers in Van Phuc, has become more active with the promotion of new products.

Artisan Phan Thi Thuan (Phung Xa, My Duc, Hanoi) is the founder of My Duc Silk Company with the Silk4world trade mark. For more than 40 years, her life has been associated with mulberry cultivation and silkworm farming. Tasting enough bitterness from the handicraft, as silk weaving in the country has faced a lot of difficulties since the market opened for imported goods, Thuan still insists on providing knowledge on silkworm farming for local households in order to create stable raw material sources and gradually regain the market.

Recently, Thuan's silk products were on the list of typical agricultural products in 2016, voted among the prestigious Thang Long Gold Brand 2017 and won first prize at the National Farmers’ Creativity Competition with her typical products on silk blankets threaded by silkworms themselves with guidance from the farmers.

Artisan Phan Thi Thuan, in Hanoi’s Phung Xa village, harvests mulberry leaves to feed silkworms.

International visitors to Vietnam are fascinated with traditional Vietnamese silk products! Van Phuc silk village is getting increasingly more prosperous thanks to their profession. For more than 20 years, Phuong Thanh’s silk shop on Van Mieu Street (Hanoi) has run smoothly and quite a lot customers are foreign visitors. Thanh, the owner of the shop, said that her main business goal is searching for new buyers from foreign countries, rather than focusing on the domestic customer source.

Thanh's strategy is similar to fashion designer Minh Hanh’s, as she said that her latest collection introduced in Switzerland has received a lot of positive feedback. The Swiss have compared Vietnam's traditional silk with the most fashionable brands in the world. Artisan Thuan, after a trip to Nghe An to introduce her silkworm farming skills, is now busy with silk blanket orders to France made of silk woven by the silkworms.

Optimistic signals

Experiencing many fluctuations in the Vietnamese silk industry, Dang Vinh Tho, Chairman of Vietnam Silk Association cum Deputy General Director of Vietnam Silk JSC, still has an optimistic perspective on the domestic silk industry. He insisted that the quality of Vietnamese silk is of a very high standard.

Optimistic statistics on silk production were also revealed at the Bao Loc Tea and Silk Culture Week in Lam Dong province in December last year. Currently, the country has roughly 10,000 ha of mulberry, of which Lam Dong accounts for about half but still produces more than 70% of the nation’s silk production.

Lam Dong currently has around 15 silk businesses with modern automatic silkworm nursing lines, which are capable of producing over two tonnes of silk per day. Previously, Bao Loc Silk Factory had to import 100% of its raw materials from Brazil and China, but in recent years, it has managed to cut that to half using domestic materials. Furthermore, there are more than 20 old-style mechanical silk centres producing about a tonne of silk a day. This source of raw materials is not only for domestic use, but also for exporting to foreign countries.

Many models of mulberry cultivation - silkworm farming have brought about high economic efficiency, encouraging people operating in the silk business. The silk industry has created high quality products to meet demanding markets, such as Japan, India, Pakistan, France, the EU and the US.

Such positive signals arouse the aspiration of reviving traditional silk areas that create pure Vietnamese silk. Skills, spirit and national pride have tied those dedicated to silk and inspired the creativeness in their profession. For many years, to strive against the harsh flow of life in order to maintain their profession, many silk workers are constantly pouring sweat out on the mulberry fields, alongside silkworm feeding baskets or on looms, to produce pure Vietnamese silk.