This perfecto jacket was adapted from the stiff traditional indigo-dyed hats worn by Miao tribes in eastern Guizhou. We went back to basics and re-wove the original diamond pattern in the natural color of the cotton fiber. It was brushed with water buffalo glue to stiffen the fabric and make it water-resistant.
To make the pattern more pronounced in the fabric, we followed the traditional technique of pounding it all day with a wooden mallet.
Worn underneath the jacket, this long-sleeved button-down shirt is made from silk hand-woven by Miao grandmothers in eastern Guizhou. The time-consuming process of weaving silk threads on a hand-loom is now only found in the province’s most remote villages. Their silk worms are raised during the months of April to June, when they can be fed the fresh leaves of the local mulberry trees.
The entire process is done inside each family’s home: raising silk worms, spinning the thread, weaving on the handloom, and finishing the fabric in boiled water. The silk thread is so fine that only 10 centimeters of narrow-width fabric (38 cm wide) can be woven in one day. It took three weeks just to weave enough fabric for one shirt.
The whiten the fabric, it was placed in the sun to dry. (Horse dung was traditionally used to bleach fabrics, but we passed on that option.) Then, it was washed with a mineral powder that gives a dry feel and naturally repels mosquitos.
The diamond-pattern fabric developed for this jacket was originally inspired by the traditional indigo-dyed cotton version of the Buyi minority tribe in the south of Guizhou. In this modernized version, Miao fabric masters re-wove the pattern using silk thread in our training program workshop in Dimen village.
The fabric was then dyed black by a Miao dye master using a special tree bark found in the mountain forest. The bark was removed during the month of August when it will not harm the tree.
Above look credits: Stockton Johnson (photographer), Vanessa Bellugeon (stylist)