Fashion brand utilises traditional materials

Established in 2018 by 28-year-old Vu Thi Thanh Van, theMay is her start-up project inspired from the Cham ethnic group’s traditional crafts of brocade weaving in My Nghiep Village and pottery in Bau Truc Village in Ninh Thuan Province.

Fashion brand utilises traditional materials
Several products from theMay’s collections. (Photo: themay.vn)


After three-years of operation, theMay has gained a position in the country’s fashion industry and received high appreciation from customers both at home and abroad. It was recently honoured as the Best Jewellery Brand in 2020 in a vote by Vietnamese fashion lovers.

With the aim of promoting and safeguarding traditional crafts, theMay has maintained a close connection with local craftsmen by hosting training classes and exhibitions from handmade jewellers as well as auctions to raise funds for the Centre for Community Development under the Vietnam’s Union of Science and Technology Associations.

Born in Gia Lai Province, Thanh Van came up with the idea of founding theMay when she lived and worked and Japan. Whenever she met international friends and colleagues, she found that she a few options in respect of giving typical products from Vietnam as souvenirs to them.

In addition, her trips to regions across Vietnam has helped her realise the huge potential for making products inspired from traditional “materials”, particularly the hand-woven brocade cloth of ethnic minority groups.

After much thought, Van decided to quit her job at one of the biggest economic corporations in Japan and returned to Vietnam to found theMay.

It is not easy to start a business, and it is even more difficult to deal with one involving a traditional craft. In the initial days, Van and her colleagues had to spend a lot of time and effort making field trips to and conducting research on indigenous culture and how to embedding traditional materials into modern designs in order to incorporate their products’ into modern life.

Through the field trips, Van’s team decided that many weaving techniques of ethnic groups are being lost since local skilful craftsmen are aging while the young generations have shown little interest in preserving their traditional crafts.

Fashion brand utilises traditional materials
theMay was founded by Vu Thi Thanh Van with the aim of promoting and safeguarding traditional crafts. (Photo: themay.vn)
 

Colourful clothes from the brocade not only reflect the skilfulness of the artisans but also the essence of the Cham ethnic group’s history and culture. TheMay’s design team, who received methodical training on arts and fashion, has worked to adapt popular patterns such as rice ears, corn ears, and stilt houses, into the brand’s products of bracelets, earrings, and necklaces.

Each collection of theMay is introduced to customers with detailed descriptions of the meaning of the patterns as well as the stories behind them.

Prominent among the collections include ‘Po Inu Nagar’, the ancestor of the Cham people who taught them how to weave brocade, and ‘The Moon and The Sun’, which are typical patterns in the daily life of Bahnar ethnic community in Gia Lai Province.

The messages and descriptions conveyed through theMay’s collections have provided customers with a deeper understanding of their products and inspired pride in Vietnam’s cultural diversity. This has also partly contributed to help theMay’s brand appear on fashion magazines and fashion shows.

Currently, theMay has one store in Ho Chi Minh City; it also sells its products on many popular e-commerce channels and social networks.

Although the use of traditional materials in fashion products and home appliances is not a new trend, it is a growing way to create a stable income for people in craft villages. Thanh Van’s journey with theMay may face many obstacles but her job always receives much appreciation from the community thanks to its considerable benefits to the craftsmen.

Nhan Dan

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