[ WANDERING STYLE ] Hmong Tribal Fashion

Hmong Tribal Jacket, Sydney Street Style, ethnic style, wandering style, Samantha Davis

Now this post has been a VERY long time coming, but, well, better late than never! I wanted to show you all this heavily appliqued and embroidered tribal jacket I picked up a few months ago during my month long adventure in Laos. Since visiting Thailand back in 2007 I've been obsessed with South East Asian tribal costume and textiles, so when I happened upon the Hmong people of Northern Laos with their super colourful style, I went straight to the markets to get my haggle on.

Hmong Tribal Jacket, ethnic style, wandering style, Samantha Davis, tribal fashion, Vietnam ethnic dressI picked up this super colourful jacket from a Hmong lady and her daughter sitting behind a small small at Luang Prabang Night Market (love everything handmade/artisanal? This place will blow your mind!) Through a series of smiles and broken English we managed to agree on a price and I managed to find out that the jacket was in fact worn by a local tribe. You can see a bit of wear if you look closely at the somewhat threadbare nature of the batik and stitching, but to me, this just adds to the excitement of owning a piece of traditional costume. Second hand purchases always have stories. Hmong Jacket, Sydney Street Style, ethnic style, wandering threads, Samantha Davis, traditional dressAs I'm currently residing in sunny Sydney and not wandering around the globe looking like a raggedy gypsy, I felt it only proper that I should make an attempt to appear somewhat presentable to my new Darlinghurst neighbours. I've teamed this kick-ass Hmong jacket with a plain vest, a kind of navy skort I picked up in Bangkok for $3 (along with a few other bits and pieces) and my trust yellow Havaianas - all for the cause of promoting a bit of authentic tribal style in the urban sphere. How would you wear it?

close up hmong embroidery, hmong batik, Laos Hmong jacket, ethnic dress, ethnic style
If you'd like to learn a little more about South East Asian tribal culture, costume and textiles, you should definitely check out my earlier post on the Vietnam Women's Museum in Hanoi. If you're specifically interested in Hmong design, or even market shopping in Laos, watch this space (or follow me on Bloglovin'!), I've got a whole lot more coming soon!



[ BEADS & BOBS ] Mango Jewellery SS2012

And the 1st prize for the ethnic accessory collection of the season goes to....Mango! The SS2012 jewellery line from Mango looks just as exotic as its namesake sounds. Tropical shades of lime, fuchsia, lemon and an orange hue like that of a sun setting over a desert island on a hot summers night (ahh...how poetic!). So, if you fancy adorning yourself with a dose of Aztec bohemia, skip on over to Mango for some skull beaded, tassel dangling accessories that are sure to get your summer off to a bold start.

For more ethnic inspired fashion and accessories like this, check out my Lyst page or click the links above.



[ THỜI TRANG NỮ ] Tribal Dress at the Vietnamese Women's Museum, Hanoi

Hmong, applique, embroidery, batik, ikat, headdresses, Vietnam Hill Tribes Costume,Upon a rainy day in Hanoi, Vietnam, but a couple of months ago I ventured off to The Vietnamese Women's Museum on recommendation by a few fellow travellers who were most impressed by the exhibitions. Being a culture junkie and ethnic textile enthusiast, I found myself positively in textbook heaven upon reaching the fourth floor, dedicated entirely to 'Womens Fashion's' of Vietnam's indigenous populations.  

Having recently ventured into the depths of Laos and, previously, northern Thailand,I have a well established appreciation for the creative zeal of South East Asia's tribal minorities. In 2007 I trekked into the mountains of northern Thailand, spending a few days emersed in the fascinating culture of the Akha and Lisu groups whilst staying with them in their respective hill tribe villages. I was blown away by the abundance of dazzling embellishments, colour saturated appliqué and awesome oversized jewellery. Basically, it got me hooked.

As with many long standing indigenous cultures, handcrafted textiles, jewellery, headdresses and other such adornments are highly prized not just by the groups themselves, whose women perfect and pass on such traditional artistry from early childhood well into their adult lives, but by designer's and collectors around the world. But for the majority, who are relatively unexposed to such cultures, dedicated museum exhibitions such as this one are tremendously important. Set in place to both reach out and excite audiences, their role as an educative tool also draws attention to the fact that these diverse cultures, indigenous populations whose traditions stem back far beyond our own, are under threat from the pitfalls of the modern world.

As a designer myself I never fail to be captivated, inspired and impressed by the diversity and beauty interwoven within the wealth of techniques, patterns, motifs and styles of these tribal communities. I can't stress how important it is for us to help conserve the traditions of cultures like this all over the world, especially to the creative communities amongst us for whom these cultures can provide endless inspiration. Thus so I have put together this (super long!) post, with a few notes from the exhibition, in the hope that all of you may too be dazzled and intrigued by the beautiful handcrafted creations of these enterprising communities.

embroidered Vietnamese hill tribe trousers,  
Flower Hmong costume, ethnic style, tribal fashion, traditional dress, Hill Tribe costumeFashion & Motif Art

Like many indigenous cultures around the world, a women's skills end experience are judged by the amount and quality of the textiles shes makes. Unfortunately nowadays this practice is becoming less and less important as more efficient, hard-wearing chemical dyes and sewing machines have overtaken the traditional craft of loom weaving along with the modernisation of traditional costumes to the point where they are often now only worn for ceremonial occasions.

Within the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam cotton is the most popular fabric and while natural silk is usually reserved for festive costumes and appliqué, Hmong women mostly use fabric woven from hemp, which is then dyed with indigo.

Pathen, Flower Lolo and Flower Hmong traditionally have very colourful clothing and complex sewing techniques. The Yao and Phula peoples favour embroidery; Lolo and Pupeo, appliqué; Hmong and Yao Tien, batik; Thai and Khmer, ikat, and the Muong, Tay and populations of the High Plateau prefer woven patterns. Patterns and motifs generally vary with geographical location, traditional tribal identities and local landscapes. 

Used by the Hmong and Yao Tien.
Designs and patterns are drawn onto fabric using melted wax. When the wax is dry the fabric is dyed several times in indigo baths then immersed in boiling water to melt the wax. The protected patterns appear as a light colour on an indigo background. This ankle length pleated skirt shown below is a typical example of traditional Hmong batik application.

Used by the Black Thai, the Khmer and the Bahnar to create patterns with beautiful soft outlines.

Ikat is a dye technique like batik, but instead of protecting the fabric before the dyeing process, the threads are protected instead. Some threads are tied up with plant or nylon fibres to protect them from the dyeing process which is usually repeated several times to obtain a multicoloured thread that is used for the weft during weaving. In some regions chain ikat is also used.

Used by indigenous populations in the Nothern Mountains of Vietnam.

Small pieces of coloured fabric are sewn onto a background to create patterns. Various coloured fabrics are cut into geometrical forms and sewn on to the fabric while the threads are hidden behind appliqué. Each group specialises in its own traditional patterns such as the Hmong, who use a very elaborate technique called reverse appliqué where the top layer of fabric is cut into patterns to reveal the colour of the backing fabric.

Vietnam tribal costume, embroidered tribal jacket Vietnam, appliqued ethnic jacket, Women's Musuem Hanoi  
HEY! What are you doing?! Don't stop here, there's more to read (and, of course, more images) regarding hill tribe jewellery, adornments and headdresses! Click the link below to keep reading! DO IT NOW!


[ BLOG LOVE ] Travel Designery

interview wandering designer, travel, Lorena
Meet Lorena: Manhattan based designer, writer and founder of traveldesignery.com, a kaleidoscopic collection of findings from Lorena's wanderings around the globe. I've been swooning over the Travel Designery since starting Wandering Threads last year, due to our shared obsession for all things travel/design related. So, since our blogs have so much in common I thought all you WT readers would love to learn a little bit about lovely Lorena, her life as a designer and, most importantly her top tips for seeking out the best travel spots around the world! 

street art, travel, design, fashion, interview

Your blog's called Travel Designery so I'm guessing you travel and you design? But what sort of design is it that you actually do? 

I'm a graphic designer so I work on all kinds of creative for beauty, magazine, and fashion companies. A few years ago I got into jewellery making for myself at first, but then friends and coworkers were interested in purchasing some of my pieces. Currently, I freelance for a knitwear company.

You've just celebrated your blogs first birthday! Yey! But how was the Travel Designery conceived?

I had seen such interesting things and been to so many beautiful places and I wanted a somewhere to share it. People would always ask me about my travels and love to look at all the photos I'd taken so I figured that a blog was a good medium. I want to inspire people to go out and experience the world, otherwise, you've only read one page in the book!

ethnic floor tiles, boutique ethnic hotel, travel, lorena


You seem to have traveled to the deepest depths of, well, everywhere! Firstly, which was your favorite travel destination and secondly, what was your most inspiring design related trip

Well, I still haven't made my way to Asia or Australia! Soon, hopefully! I have 3 top favorites, it's a toss up, but they're all so different. Jordan, Cuba, and Iceland are just beyond and must be experienced for yourselves. The best design related trip so far would be either Paris because it really renewed an old interest in art and painters, or Istanbul because the architecture, patterns, and Ottoman tinged decor are so gorgeous!

Wandering Threads is obsessed with ethnic design and traditional culture. Any particular favorites in these categories?

My absolute favorite kind of ethnic design, particularly for interiors, decor, and jewellery is from India and Morocco. I just love the colors and embellishments, they are so beautiful. I go crazy with that type of stuff! 

Guatemalan textiles, worry doles, handmade Central American textiles, woven ethnic, wandering style, travel inspiration

What are your top five travel destinations for design junkie wanderers?

Definitely Museum Mile in New York City which runs along 5th Ave from roughly the 90's to the 70's streets, with a stop at the Cooper Hewit Design Museum. Istanbul for architectural design, Barcelona for all that incredible Gaudi work, Northern African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, and surely many others I have not yet had the chance to explore!

Which essential items always go with you in your Travel Designery suitcase?

Ballet flats for walking, a scarf/wrap, jeans with stretch that go from day to night, a pair of heels, and a camera that can easily fit in my back pocket or clutch.


And finally, any top tips for other wandering bloggers?

Look for deals! TravelZoo.com's weekly Top 20 is a great resource. Don't be afraid of traveling solo or of going to places off the beaten path. It's very much worth it in the end :-)

ethnic street art, lorena, travel designery, wandering peopleAnd lastly, just a few quickies:


Favorite world shopping destination?

New York, Spain, Paris, Morocco (India and Southeast Asia for sure once I get there!) 

Top digital destination?

TravelZoo.com, DailyCandy.com
To find out more about Lorena visit her blog at www.traveldesignery.com
All images courtesy of Travel Designery.



[ THREAD LUSTINGS ] Ifat Creations on Boticca

Online store, Boticca, caught my attention yesterday with its 'All About Tradition' feature which happens to showcase some of the store's most talented, traditionally inspired jewellery designers. As a silversmithing novice myself, I love reading about new designers with interesting and innovative approaches to jewellery design, so when I came across  Ifat Creations' intricately woven thread necklaces, a bit of clicking frenzy ensued. 

Working from in her studio in Madrid, Israeli born Ifat handcrafts each of her pieces using traditional weaving techniques, based on the ancient art of macramé, to create an intricate web of fine linen or waxed cotton threads around a central focal point. Intertwining rare Murano beads, Dogon jewellery, Indian silverwork, terracotta, wood or small handmade works by other contemporary artisans, every uniquely crafted piece from Ifat exudes contemporary ethnic appeal.

This macramé technique looks like fun, time to find some threads and try it out!


[ GOOD MORNING VIETNAM ] Free People March 2012

No, I'm not writing about the comedy drama staring Robin Williams, this blog is about fashion remember? So, predictably I'm featuring this beautiful new catalogue shoot by Free People because, well, I'm in love with their brand. Any other guesses? Yes, it was shot in Vietnam! The shoot took place over a number of days across the capital city of Hanoi and over west in the stunning, indigenous rural area of Sapa. I'm super jealous these ethereal beauties got to spend their days prancing around in fringed halter tops, multi-coloured blanket jackets and floaty cape dresses, all the while in brilliant sunshine. My time in Vietnam, which I am still yet to blog about, was mostly spent dodging the north east monsoon rain, dressed in jeans and a jumper. Nevertheless, Vietnam is an enthralling place and the FP team have certainly captured the beauty of it in these delicate, light drenched shots. What you don't see is the manic motorbike-dodging, street-vendor-pestering, bicycle ridden streets which are enough to test even the most intrepid of adventurers!

Click here if you'd like to see FP's Guide to Vietnam and here if you just want to shop the collection!



[ CALL OF THE WILD ] Vogue India March 2012

ethnic luxury, tribal fashion, Varun Sardana, Poli earrings,

This March, Indian Vogue unleashed this epic editorial bursting with explosive colour, dynamism and fierce, untamed tribal-inspired beauty. Modeled by Preeti Dhata and Ninja Singh this kick ass shoot features a plethora of homegrown talent from the likes of Rohit Ghandi and Rahul Khanna, Malini Ramani and Alpana Neeraj and Ritu Kumar. Offset by zig-zagging braids, graphic cornrows and stencil patterned war paint and accessorised with some of the finest ethnic statement jewellery I've seen this season, it seems those 'innovative', 'boundary-pushing', 'rebellious' labels that typically crown the likes of London's new generation, may be in for the taking. Honestly, that Kapoor 'Chaotic Truck Art' crêpe dress is giving me the urge to hop right on a plane straight to Rajasthan to hang out with the gypsies (like these!). Somebody fly me back to India!
free spirit, indian designers, indian vogue march, tribal syle, editorial, Shivan & Narresh, Popli bib necklace, Curio Cottage, Rohit Ghandi + Rahul Khanna, Mawi, beaded bracelettribal fashion, indian designers, Label Ritu Kumar blouse, feather earrings, cutwork bangles, Curio Cottage, Deepa Gurnani
Photographed by Suresh Natarajan and styled by Anaita Shroff Adajania for Indian Vogue, March 2012

Photos courtesy of Visual Optimism (blog love!)




As I've mentioned before, and probably very predictably, I am 100% head over heals for French label Antik Batik. Oh, how I'd love to pick those exotically charged, ethnically saturated brains of Gabriella Cortese! Although I think such an act might result in a rather chaotic pile of batiky, mirror appliquéd mess. Marvelous! Anyway, back to the point, Gabriella's SS 2012 collection is no exception to my AB love affair: fringed suede satchels, multi-strand beaded necklaces, pearl embellished silk, ethnic embroidery and geometrical patterned straw clutches all thrown together with some kind of Native American boho vs Parisian chic (that light terracotta floral printed coat is beyond beautiful, but how did it get in there with that tasseled ethnic knit jumper?). Pocahontas in Paris perhaps?




[ SUNNY SYDNEY ] Hello Australia, Goodbye Traveller Scruff!

Sydeny, street style, wandering style, hello australia,

So that's it, after ten long months of rickshaw riding, street stall haggling and noodle eating in the deepest depths of Asia, I've finally reached Australia, ready to get reacquainted with the western world, and man, what a shock. Why does it feel like there's been a zombie apocalypse in Oz? Where are all the people?! Why am I not under threat of being mowed down by a motorcycle on every street I cross (not to mention the pavements)? Where are all the street vendors? And what the hell is with this $4 Mars Bar deal?!

Ok, breathe...One good thing that comes with being in Oz is good hair. Yes, I know there are many fine salons in Asia but having someone cut and style your curly mass of hair when all your going to do in jump right in the sea the next minute is just not worth the hassle. And don't get me started on the colouring. Ten long months of growing out red henna had left me with a half ginger, half brown disaster (hence the lack of pics), so I was super excited when BIBA Academy, Melbourne gave me back my hair dignity with some beautiful new colouring! Ok, so its not super sleek and still not fashion-blogger perfect but, well, shamefully, I have to admit ten months without a hair dryer and I'm a bit out of practice...
Wandering style, Sydney Opera House, Australia street style, Bali blousechatuchak bangkok satchel, ethnic friendship bracelts, summer shades, Sydney style
In a forethought to the state I was going to re-enter society as a non-traveller with an ever-dwindling budget, I picked up a few necessities in Bangkok's infamous Chatuchak Market back in January. Let's face it, you can't walk around one of the worlds most stylish cities in harem pants and washed out, creased up t-shirts (or at least that's what my iron wielding mother would say).  So for the super cheap price of $6 I snapped up this rather chic leatherette box satchel and two pairs of these silky tailored shorts for $9. Bargain! I found this cute embroidered navy blouse in Kuta, Bali just a few days ago and loved it so much I bought 2! And there's those ethnic bands again (also from Kuta), see, perfect traveling jewellery that you never have to take off!


[ DIY THREADS ] Friendship Bracelets by Honestly WTF

Earlier today whilst stumbling around the web (yes, I am now down with the rest of you Stumble Upon kids), I came across these bracelet beauties from one of my current favorite blogs, Honestly WTF. I've been lusting over this kind of crafty 'do it yourself' accessory look for a while now as they make for perfect traveling jewellery - you never need to take them off and they go great with beach brights and bohemian slouch (like these examples I picked up in Kuta, Bali). So when I discovered the girls behind HWFT had already provided a full on DIY masterclass in friendship-bracelet-making, I got a little over excited and started 'stumbling' all their DIY tutorials (if you're following me on facebook you'll already know what I'm talking about). If you love what you see and fancy getting a little crafty click on over to the fully illustrated tutorial here.

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