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I was so charmed by the laid-back and peaceful Laos. Around the time when I first visited in 2000, many roads were dirt roads and their buildings were still intact compared to the fast developing neighbours in Southeast Asia.

Architectural styles, wide roads with trees, bakery and café are all reminiscent of their French colonial times. You could glimpse into what used to be called ‘Indochina’ and its distinctive scenery. The faded colours from the bygone era evoked my imaginations.

I then soon discovered the profound culture of dyeing and weaving in Laos. I visited many weaving villages and projects and found some amazing skills there. Unlike surrounding nations where machine had gradually taken over, Laotians stuck to their traditional wooden looms and natural dyeing.

Seri culture was very much present. Seri culture is the environment of cultivating silkworms to produce silk. Cultivating the worms, reeling, spinning, processing, and dyeing silks are a very labour-intensive process. That really made me think that the hand-made is the ultimate luxury in this age of technology.

Reinterpreting and redefining the traditional weaving became my mission in Laos, where my weaving collection started.

Designing Textile Collection

My textile collections always have a story or theme. Nature, travels, arts, or fleeting images that I encounter are all my strong source of inspirations.

I begin my research on my theme and start gathering the images and materials to make my mood boards. This process is important as it helps me to organize my thoughts and come up with concrete ideas for the collection, such as colour palette, textures, designs, and applications, etc.

I have hundreds of embroidery colour threads, and that’s what I use to determine my colour palette of the season. I literally pull out all the shades that take my fancy and start grouping & coordinating colours. This is how I develop my colour palette of the theme, and definitely a fun process!

Mood Board & Sketches
Emiko's colour palette
Dyeing yarns in em colors
Yarns naturally dyed
Weaving em's designs
em collection 'Botanica'

Building up a strong visual story is essential. I then translate my story into the world of weaving. My three design elements - colours, textures, and motifs - work hand-in-hand in this process. Each element offers a different way of expressing my vision, and together they create a beautiful woven story.

Last but not least, I determine the applications as I go through my textile designs. My broad categories are home and fashion. I coordinate the ‘look’ such as wall-hangings, runners, throws & pillows for my home collection, while scarves and accessories are part of my fashion collection.

The end results are very unique em textile collection. Most of all, it is personally put together.

Village Works Project

As I travelled in Laos, I was captured by the strong presence and influence of their hill tribe culture. There are said to be about 50 ethnic groups consisting over 200 subgroups in Laos. Each group has its own traditional skill in crafts.

My increasing fascination and admiration for the tribal arts & crafts led to a branched-off project called VillageWorks. It is to celebrate the rich hill tribe culture.

For this project, I travel to find villager’s original works and showcase them in my shop under VillageWorks. We usually have a Village corner where we explain about the ethnicity and culture. Sometimes, my VillageWorks takes a centre stage in my shop, depending on a story.

Emiko at Tai Lue village
Indigo dyeing
Indigo pots
Tai Lue woman washing indigo yarns in the river

In Laos, natural dye is still widely practiced. Indigo dye is one of my favourites.

It is a lengthy process from soaking indigo stems & leaves to ferment to creating the right solution to dye the yarns until desired colours are achieved.

They expertly control the hues by soaking the yarns in a number of pots. 

Indigo Dyeing in Laos

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