The reason why I Google search “Hmong” every year is because for those who are not Hmong, for those who have never heard or seen “Hmong” before, the internet is the first place many people will experience other people's cultures and history. When I see Hmong textiles I think about the process and the figures who create these works. I think about the tradition of Hmong women embodying textile crafts. I think about my mother, grandmother, aunts, sisters, I think about Hmong women. So when designers who are Hmong and non-Hmong incorporate Hmong textiles and symbols into their works, are the works about aesthetics or about the history and traditions that embodies the Hmong women's experiences? Are artists and designers eradicating the female body from Paj Ntaub, fabrics and Hmong history for commercial gain? Are aesthetics desensitizing thousands of years of tradition, processes, and history to make something look pretty?
Fashion is such a white world. Heck, in advertising all you ever see are white people represented, Google the word "Fashion" you'll see what I mean. I also think there are very few programming for people of color. To connect the traditional fabric to the body from which it came creates a different experience for people. It reminds people not to erase the body from the experience of clothing and culture.
These are the questions that run through my mind as I see makers, artists and designers engage in Hmong visually. I want to encourage everyone to step back and really think about appropriation and what people are producing. Does what you are seeing and consuming represent who you are.
HOW TO APPLY
With this said, Fresh Tradition's application for the 10th show ends tomorrow, January 31st. The best way to engage in these conversations is to be apart of the venues that are able and willing to elevate ideas and creativity. So apply, join the conversation, and participate by attending the show.
Fresh Traditions X: Call for Designers