The tradition of hand weaving in Lao PDR (Laos)

Traditional woven textiles, through the woven motifs and quality of yarn, express the beliefs and cultures of a particular society in addition to their decorative nature, color and beauty. However, their beauty is secondary to the value these societies place in fabric since they are not just woven to cover or keep a person clothed and warm. They can show the rank or standing of a person, bond families together, have religious significance or act as protection against the spirits. All societies around the world once shared this attribute but for most of us it is now lost. In South East Asia in general and Lao in particular they are still lucky to attach an importance to weaving fabric that has lasted until today.

Until very recently textiles in Lao were woven for the family’s personal use only. An intricate fabric in silk would have denoted a rich family since only they could afford the expensive yarn and the time to weave a complex piece. In the same way, the various styles and fabric motifs denote tribal origins from different areas. As people migrated, they brought their weaving skills and specific designs with them. Even today, an expert can most likely tell the origin of a design and the name of the tribe that created the piece.

Lao is a poor land-locked country that has only recently begun to develop and change. Because of the past geo-political situation, the Lao people stuck more firmly to their weaving traditions than countries such as Thailand, whose economic growth offered their people other work opportunities rather than traditional employment. Today, many Lao families still augment their income by weaving on home looms and by selling their fabrics in their local markets or to a weaving cooperative.

Globalization, extensive travel and the growing popularity of Lao as a travel destination means that many people are familiar with Lao textiles and have even purchased a scarf, traditional skirt or cushion cover from the country. Soie de Lune has also taken advantage of the beauty of Lao textiles, the skill of their weavers and the country’s rich patrimony of designs, to bring this very special fabric to the world of interior design.