Sapa, an ideal destination for textile lovers.

I recently spent a week in and around the town of Sapa, in the far northwestern part of Vietnam.

Besides the spectacular scenery of mountains and ricefield valleys, the area has much to offer anyone who is interested in textiles, because it is home to around 8 different ethnic groups that still make and wear their traditional clothing. I had visited Sapa 17 years ago and was curious to see what it would be like now, and how much of the textile traditions were still being practiced. I had been there once before 17 years ago and it was interesting to see the changes that have taken place since then. Tourism has developed substantially during that time and it was clear to see that it benefitted the H’mong in many ways. However it is also clear to see that they are still very poor and their life is not easy. It was sad to see that even though they still cling to their traditional ways, consumerism has taken a toll on the way the H’mong people make their traditional clothing. I had hoped to find indigo batik-making on hemp, but unfortunately cheap cotton imported from China, printed in blue ink with the H’mong patterns has all but replaced the beautiful hand-made wax resist designs on indigo-dyed, hand woven hemp used for the bottoms of skirts. The purses these Black H’mong women are carrying are mass-produced by machine in China. They used to embellish these by hand with meticulous and beautiful embroidery.

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