Step back 1950 -1960 to the south area of Viet Nam, Tan Chau, An Giang district, there was a kind of fabric which was extremely famous in the textile industry in the century XX. People named it - Lacquer silk in English, or Lanh My A in Vietnamese. Its owner was usually the highest-ranking mandarins of Viet Nam, and even exported and worn by Chinese emperor. Word of mouth about magical features of lacquer silk–shiny black, warm in winter, cool in summer and even glossier overtime makes it more valuable and popular.
Because of the up and down of life, Traditional handicraft is more likely to sink into oblivion. It’s replaced natural fabric by raising artificial materials. In September 1940, Nylon fabric was first launched and applied in producing socks. Thanks to many advantages, Nylon rapidly dominated the market in the garment industry. Lacquer silk craftsmanship probably might be lost in the mists of time. Mr.Tam Lang - the last artisan of this traditional handicraft was demoralized and had to close textile factory for living. After a long time, Mr Nguyen Huu Tri–one of 10 sons of Mr Tam Lang, who is passionate about lacquer silk and strives for reviving lacquer silk – his father’s dream
I. THE JOURNEY OF LACQUER SILK
The value of luxury is not in the material aspect, it is in the spirit. The sophistication and rarity of materials, the attitude and skill of artisans while facing many difficulties in the production process create precious value which mass production can’t do.
1.Natural Materials – MAC URA FRUIT (Diospyros Mollis)
Mac ura fruit–a gift of Mother Nature, 100% natural material can give off a durable shiny jet black of Lacquer silk. Mac ura originates from Cambodia, and is grown more in Tan Chau, An Giang district to serve the dying in the mainland. After harvesting fresh mac ura fruits, they are pressed and filtered to get to sap. Interestingly, this milky white sap can turn to attractive black on lacquer silk. Moreover,100 kilogram of Mac ura is enough to use for 20 meters of lacquer silk. Nowadays, Mr.Tri family can only produce about 6.000 meters annually.
Mac nura berries made into a dye bath. Photograph Augusta de Gunzbourg.
Unlike normal tree, Mac ura is difficult to please. The fertile land is not suitable for it. Only growing in barren land can help mac ura offer good sap in quality, albeit fewer fruits.
2. High-grade silk
First, Authentic Lacquer silk must be woven from high-grade silk. At the present, Bao Loc–Lam Dong is the only place in Viet Nam raising silkworms derived from Fuju mountain–Japan. The weavers have to choose the good silk from the best silkworms. A good silk is soft, long, transparent and has no joint. And then, weavers must pay all their attention to looms during weaving time to avoid making any mistake.
3. Manual dyeing process
Once the silk is woven and ready, the next step is to dip the textile into the sap of Mac ura for dyeing. Dyeing process includes 6 stages to ensure a high quality of lacquer silk. At each stage, the textile experiences dyeing, washing and dehydrating in the fields a lot of times in that order.
To get a finished panel of lacquer silk, 45 is the number of days to fine-tune each meter of fabric. Some impressive numbers can tell us how hard craft workers experience to create “fabric like a mirror”.
- 100 times dye fabric in the sap of Mac ura tree fruit
- 20 times wash and rinse by Mekong river to remove redundant sap
- 10 times beat the textile to help the dye deeply into silk core
From the fourth stage onwards, the artisan will beat the textile with a hammerhead. This step helps dye soak up into each silk core.
Somes said that lacquer silk has been likened to a “hard to please” girl. She doesn’t like sun-baked areas or dryers, So the artisan must observe the weather when exposing “her” in the field.
Lacquer silk cloth drying in a field. Photograph Augusta de Gunzbourg.
II. THE ACHIEVEMENT
No matter how hard it is, just a light touch on lacquer silk it’s worth it. Premium lacquer silk has a jet black color and is shiny like a mirror, cool and soft surface like skin of a girl and natural fragrance of mac ura fruit. Especially, the more it is washed, the blacker and glossier it is. A thin layer of this fabric can keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. In the golden age, It was a dream for young women and ladies in the past to have an ao dai or clothes made of lacquer silk. The black trousers were kept in the closet like a treasure. Lacquer silk used to be exported to Cambodia, Lao,.. and even China.
III. YVETTE’S COMBO SHORT
With the retro spirit, “treasure the past–enhance the present”, Yvette LIBBY N’guyen would like to give a hand to revive traditional craft villages and spread out premium eco-friendly products to Yvette-ers. Lacquer silk is firstly applied in new designs–combo shorts (shirt & shorts) as a retro-chic fashion essential in hot summer.
Click here to discover more lacquer silk combo short
To sum up, the value of luxury comes from the sophistication and attitude of artisans. What we wear is not simply clothes, it’s an artwork.
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IMPORTANT NOTE: Ecology is our top priority to mention about. This year has been a challenging year for so many people, but this challenge also gives us a chance to make real change to how we live our lives and treat the planet. One thing we as the fashion brand Yvette LIBBY N’guyen Paris can change is to create fashion artwork as a voice to be heard for a greener, healthier and safer future lifestyle.
Yvette LIBBY N'guyen Paris
Hotline: + 33 6 69 50 63 71
Boutique: 9 rue Commines, 75003, Paris, France
Website (find your language): www.yvettelibby.com