Textile (Brocade) is a quite popular product of the ethnic minorities in the Northwest of Vietnam. There’re many minorities in the region, each of them have their own products that contain their own identities. Hoa Binh province is well-known with Muong, Thai, Dzao and Hmong people. The textile of the Muong people is almost lost with the penetration of industrial commodities. There’s only few Muong groups keeping their weaving works, mainly in Lac Son, Tan Lac and Cao Phong districts but at very limited production.
Being different from Muong group, the textile of Thai people in Hoa Binh is more developed with the names of groups in Chieng Chau, Mai Ha, Na Phon, Mai Hich… in Mai Chau district. Most of Thai people can do weaving but those are keeping weaving works as a way to maintain their life is accounting for only 15-20% of total Thai people (in the labour age) and most of them are matured and old women.
The textile/brocade of Hmong and Dzao people in Hoa Binh is only accounting for very small ratio as compared to the textile of Thai people. The most potential groups are Dzao people in Phuc San and Hmong people in Pa Coh of Mai Chau district and the brocade of both Hmong and Dzao people is also different with the one of Thai people: the brocade of Thai is textile using cotton and synthetic yarn (wool, polyester…) made by traditional manual table looms with different decorating patterns while the brocade of Hmong is using hemp in combination with embroidery and the brocade of Dzao people is simply the embroidery.
As same as Hoa Binh, Son La province is quite famous with textile production of Thai people in most of the districts of the province. The most famous locations for textile production of Thai minority in Son La are Thom Mon commune (Thuan Chau district), Chieng Dong commune (Yen Chau district), besides that there’re many other smaller groups in Son La town (Chieng Xom, Chieng An…), Song Ma district (Chieng Khoong commune), Moc Chau town (Dong Sang commune), Mai Son district (Co Noi commune)….
The Thai’s brocade includes both weaving and embroidery products and there’s a group in Then Luong village (Chieng Dong commune) leading by active ladies who successfully diversified their products to serve both Hanoi and export markets. Besides Thai people, there’s also Muong and Hmong ethnic minorities in Son La who are also producing brocade and the most potential location would be Van Ho commune (Moc Chau town) where Muong people is making large quantity of embroidery pieces (with patterns of the Hmong people) to sell to Hmong community in both Son La and Hoa Binh provinces for cloth decoration.
The Hmong people in Van Ho (Moc Chau) and other districts like Bac Yen, Phu Yen, Thuan Chau, Song Ma… is still keeping their traditional hemp weaving using back-strap looms, but due to poor soil condition, hemp is hard to grow in good condition, therefore, the number of hemp textile producers is also limited. The local Hmong people tends to buy industrial fabric (China made) or ready-made clothes which are selling freely in the local market instead of making it by themselves for the major explanation of “more convenient”. Similar to Hoa Binh, most of the Thai weavers in Son La used synthetic yarn as major material for their brocade products.
The textile in Lai Chau is more diversified with the participation of Thai, Laos, Lu and Hmong people. The textile of Thai is the major one spreading in the province, from Lai Chau town (Doan Ket group), Phong Tho district (Muong So), Tan Uyen district (Na Cang commune)…Most of the brocade of Thai people in Lai Chau is similar to those in Hoa Binh and Son La. The only different feature is the use of cotton material, especially with Thai group in Muong So commune (Phong Tho district) offered more market opportunities for the producers.
Laos ethnic minority in Lai Chau (given the case of group living in Na Tam commune of Tam Duong district) also producing brocade employing both weaving and embroidery techniques. The synthetic yarn is the major material and there’s no special products to be made but local clothes for their own consumption. There’s only a small quantity of Laos’ textile to be consumed by traders in Sa Pa (Lao Cai province) where foreign tourists are major buyers. Besides Lao and Thai, there’s also groups of Lu people – the only ethnic group in Lai Chau province.
Lu people has their own brocade using traditional table loom with the decorating patterns similar to both Laos and Thai people. There’s almost no products of Lu people to be sold yet but there’s also certain potential to support this group, especially the one in Pa Pe village of Binh Lu commune (Tam Duong district).
In Dien Bien, the most famous brocade are Lao people in Nua Ngam commune (Dien Bien city), the Hmong people in Tua Chua district (Sinh Phinh commune). There’s also other groups of the Hmong people producing brocade in Dien Bien Dong district but at much lower quantity. In Sinh Phing, 100% of Hmong people can do embroidery and there’s a group of over 20 people using their traditional embroidery technique to make accessories for fashionable products to be completed elsewhere out of their area (Hanoi is the major market).
The textile of Thai people is also quite popular, like the cases of Thanh Xuong, Thanh An and Na Tau communes of Dien Bien city. If compared with the textile of Thai people in other provinces in the Northwest then the scale of Thai’s textile in Dien Bien is smallest and there’s also no special feature of Thai textile in Dien Bien as compared to the other ones.
This article is written by Ha Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel Company