Vu Thi Phuong Thao is the founder and creative director of an eco fashion brand from Hanoi, Vietnam, called Kilomet109. She’s a fashion designer by training and also a practicing textile artist. She designs and makes contemporary fashion pieces (for both men and women) using traditional textiles from several textile artisan communities in Vietnam. A passionate natural dyer herself, Thao collaborates with a diverse array of Vietnamese artisan communities on all aspects of textile production, from sowing seeds, to harvest, to weaving and natural dyeing- all using indigenous processes and local materials from these diverse communities. As textile collaborators they experiment by tweaking traditional natural dyeing techniques to create both traditional and non-traditional colors, shades, batik patterns, and use a mix and match of natural handwoven fabrics. The traditional textile processes that they work with include beeswax batik drawing, calendaring hemp, and natural dyeing using indigo, lac beetle resin, ebony fruit, tree bark, and yam root, just to name a few. As a follow-on to textile production, Thao works with an experienced team of clothing makers at her home studio in Hanoi to design and create semi-annual fashion collections that are sold in her Hanoi flagship store, online, and at select boutiques abroad.
Paying fair wages and creating environmentally sustainable products is at the heart of everything they do. In addition to paying well above market rate for all of their textiles, they also pay for all of the tools, farming equipment, seeds, and wages for planting/maintenance/harvesting of the fibre and natural dye crops they plant. Thao works side by side with the artisans on every aspect of the textile production process in a fully collective and mutually beneficial manner. Maintaining these income generating activities provides economic incentives for these artisans to actively preserve their craft.
Her artisans use only locally sourced ingredients and materials to process their natural dyes. In this way, it’s as close to a fully sustainable and environmentally friendly method as she’s found in Vietnam. The indigo plants are grown from seed and seasonally rotated with other crops to prevent pests — no pesticides are used — and to ensure a healthy soil. Owing to optimal climate conditions in northern Vietnam no extra watering is necessary either. Moreover, only traditional natural mordants are used to fasten the colour during the dyeing process. These natural mordants allow them to minimise any of the colour bleeding that typically occurs with naturally dyed fabric.
To further follow the story of Kilomet109, find them on social media here.