South­west China says Miao on cat­walk

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By HONG XIAO in New York xiao­hong@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Our aim is ... to en­cour­age the fash­ion in­dus­try to in­ject mod­ern de­sign into this an­cient art form.” Deng Li, chief con­tent of­fi­cer, Marie Claire China

Vy­ing for at­ten­tion amid the thou­sands of haute cou­ture col­lec­tions on dis­play dur­ing Fash­ion Week in New York are the em­broi­dered of­fer­ings from the re­mote moun­tains of South­west China.

A char­ity ex­hi­bi­tion at Venue 57 in Man­hat­tan, fea­tur­ing China’s Miao embroidery, opened in New York on Thurs­day.

The ex­hi­bi­tion was or­ga­nized by the China Soong Ching Ling Foun­da­tion (SCLF), the gov­ern­ment of Kaili City in Guizhou prov­ince in South­west China and the fash­ion magazine Marie Claire.

Miao embroidery is a folk her­itage of the Miao eth­nic group from Guizhou.

His­tor­i­cal records show that the skill­ful needle­work has been around since the Tang Dy­nasty (AD 618-907). It was cre­ated by Miao women and al­ways passed down from mother to daugh­ter.

In­cluded in China’s first list of state-level in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itages, Miao embroidery is widely re­garded as an im­por­tant com­po­nent not only of Miao cul­ture but also for Chi­nese na­tional cul­ture.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is di­vided into two the­matic sec­tions: the Classical Cre­ativ­ity sec­tion show­cases works in­clud­ing Miao for­mal cos­tumes, ac­ces­sories and jew­elry, as well as re­pro­duc­tions of tra­di­tional cos­tumes and other embroidery pieces.

The New Life sec­tion ex­hibits cross­over works de­signed by con­tem­po­rary in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers with in­spi­ra­tion from tra­di­tional Miao hand­i­crafts.

Yet for var­i­ous rea­sons, the Miao embroidery tra­di­tion has also been in dan­ger of dy­ing out.

“In the past 30 years, many ex­quis­ite Miao embroidery tech­niques have rapidly been lost. Many older peo­ple in their 60s or 70s are now the last re­main­ing prac­ti­tion­ers of a par­tic­u­lar style of embroidery,” said Deng Li, chief con­tent of­fi­cer of Marie Claire China and the pro­gram’s ini­tia­tor.

In 2011, SCLF and Marie Claire jointly es­tab­lished the SCLF Marie Claire Women’s Hap­pi­ness Fund with the goal of pre­serv­ing in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage and help­ing women in eth­nic mi­nor­ity re­gions im­prove their liv­ing stan­dard and so­cial sta­tus.

“Our aim is, on the one hand, to pro­tect and re­vive tra­di­tional Miao embroidery, and at the same time to en­cour­age the fash­ion in­dus­try to in­ject mod­ern de­sign into this an­cient art form and help Miao embroidery to move with the times and un­leash a new en­ergy,” Deng added.

Since its launch five years ago, the fund has or­ga­nized a se­ries of train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Miao embroidery tech­niques and skills with lo­cal women.

So far the pro­gram has pro­vided sup­port to eight Miao mi­nor­ity vil­lages and ben­e­fited more than 600 fam­i­lies, with par­tic­i­pat­ing fam­i­lies see­ing an an­nual in­come in­crease of be­tween 3,000 to 5,000 yuan ($450-$750).

More than a thou­sand pieces of embroidery have been pro­duced, and five com­plete repli­cas of tra­di­tional cos­tumes have been made us­ing clas­sic Miao embroidery meth­ods.

Through co­op­er­a­tion with gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions, the pro­gram com­bines poverty-al­le­vi­a­tion work with the preser­va­tion of Miao embroidery.

Sil­via Mo­ri­moto, chief of staff of the re­gional bureau for Asia and the Pa­cific in the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram said that the project aligns with the 17 sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals (SDGs) that the UNDP has been pro­mot­ing.

“Like poverty re­duc­tion, gen­der equal­ity, in­equal­i­ties re­duc­tion … ba­si­cally, this (project) is very much in line with the SDGs. I re­ally hope they can es­ca­late this project to other mi­nori­ties,” said Mo­ri­moto, who at­tended the show.

Fol­low­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion in Paris in 2014, the week­long 2016 China Miao Embroidery Char­ity Ex­hi­bi­tion in New York is the sec­ond ap­pear­ance for Miao embroidery be­fore an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

HONG XIAO / CHINA DAILY

Sil­via Mo­ri­moto, chief of staff of the re­gional bureau for Asia and the Pa­cific in the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram, browses the 2016 Chi­naMiaoEm­broi­deryChar­i­tyEx­hi­bi­tion in New York on Thurs­day.

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