Chinese designers keen to preserve culture

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-12-12 17:00:00 – GAORONG VILLAGE, China

The Chinese community is making effort to preserve its textile culture. Hong Kong-based Elaine Ng, is among the growing number of designers focused on ecological and cultural sustainability who hope to preserve skills of rural artisans that are fast vanishing in this increasingly industrial society.

“A scarf that is made with 50 hours of love is different from one made by digital print in a factory,” said Ng, whose strategy of using artisans fits right in with Beijing’s push to shift away from low-end, cheap mass manufacturing toward higher skilled, more environmentally friendly industries.

Ng is helping to breathe new life into old crafts of minority tribes in isolated villages in south-central Guizhou province.

Many low-cost Chinese producers are fleeing to neighboring Asian countries like Vietnam, where they can pay lower wages, as the local labor pool shrinks and costs rise.

So garment makers that previously thrived churning out cheap clothes for overseas brands are revamping their sweatshops with smart, small batch production methods such as 3D printing and cloud computing.

Ng hopes her project, Un/fold , run by her design studio, The Fabrick Lab, can pioneer a business model that might appeal to young people fleeing villages for easier and better paying jobs in distant cities.

This fall, she launched a limited edition of scarves, squat wooden stools and hexagonal wooden wall tiles, the latter two decorated with batik patterns normally used only for fabrics. She’s also working with a Shanghai company to create custom furniture that uses artisanal fabrics and woodwork.

Landlocked Guizhou, 2,000 kilometers (1,230 miles) from Beijing, has rich folk art traditions. More than a third of its 35 million residents are from ethnic minorities including the Shui, Miao, Dong and other tribes known for their skill with batik, embroidery, silverwork, woodwork and paper cutting.

Those arts are under threat as growth picks up in the province best known for its stunning karst limestone hills and its fiery Moutai liquor. A new high-speed rail line is opening up previously isolated towns to outside visitors, while government planners are encouraging the tech industry to make Guizhou a center for big data.

The province reported 10.5 percent economic growth in the first half of 2016, third-fastest among the country’s 31 regions.The renaissance of traditional apparel workshops is partly driven by a backlash against so-called

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