Producing the ANGEL CHANG collection enables villagers to pass down their fabric tradition and, therefore, keep their oral history from disappearing. Our training programs ensure that these techniques are used at the highest quality level so that the beauty and cultural meaning are retained in the fabric.
Following traditional, high-quality processes means using organic and all-natural raw materials. The wastewater is chemical-free and non-polluting.
By producing vertically in the local workshop, we create a revenue stream for the surrounding villages. Working wages will be higher than the coastal factories that would otherwise lure villagers away from their families. This will keep the nuclear family intact and allow parents to properly raise their children at home.
Preserving Traditional Culture
In the last 30 years, village life has quickly eroded across rural China. Since textiles of the ethnic minorities are tied with their oral history, the disappearance of traditional fabric-making techniques also means the disappearance of their rich history and culture.
Since these costumes are made domestically for use within the family, they do not generate any revenue for the home. Due to China’s recent speed to modernization, these traditional costumes are quickly disappearing or being made as low-quality imitations.
While we should support progress in rural China’s, it need not come at the sacrifice of their own culture. For an agrarian society, tradition and culture is the soul of their people. For many impoverished villages, tradition and culture are all that they have.
Fabric as Culture
The ethnic minorities in Guizhou historically did not have a written language. Instead, they used auspicious patterns in their fabrics to orally convey the story of their people. Their history is, literally, written on their cloth.
Each item of clothing is made using all-natural, sustainable techniques that have been perfected over the last 2000 years. Mothers teach their daughters the intricate dye and weaving techniques. It is a gift of love for the recipient and an heirloom to pass down to the next generation.
Government initiatives and UNESCO funding have tried to rescue the dying crafts tradition, but the younger generation feels they no longer have time to learn its labor-intensive techniques. They must pursue employment opportunities in the big cities and take on manufacturing jobs in coastal factories or low-paying positions in the entertainment industry (karaoke bars, massage parlors, restaurants and hotels).
As migrant workers outside of their home province, they are no longer eligible for health insurance nor education for their accompanying children. Oftentimes, they are overworked and underpaid in sweatshop-like conditions. If they could find jobs in their own villages, they would certainly prefer to stay closer to home and live with their families.
Saving these textile traditions is not just about preserving the past. They can also provide tangible solutions for an environmentally sustainable future.
Presently, the global textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world. The World Bank estimates that 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment, much of which is toxic when it is released back into the environment.
Commercially-produced fabrics contain residuals of these chemicals—carcinogenic and allergy-causing chemicals that evaporate into the air we breathe or are absorbed through our skin.
It is clear that we need alternative solutions for making textiles. Much can be learned from the chemical-free indigenous clothing of the ethnic minorities.
According to The Financial Times, “China’s race to be a global economic power has also come at the price of leaving 58 million children” growing up in the countryside without their parents.
The book The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage and the documentary Last Train Home describe this urban migration in detail. They have shown that this quest for a “better lifestyle” has led to more hardships for its migrant workers than originally promised.
Parents must travel far distances to find work and may return to see their children and family only once per year. The family, the core and most important of Chinese values, is currently being disrupted by this migration.
What will this emerging generation, 20 percent of China’s population, be like if they grow up without their parents nor a sense of family? It should not just be a concern for China; it must also be a concern for the rest of the world.
Inspire the Younger Generation
What will this emerging generation, 20 percent of China’s population, be like if they grow up without their parents nor a sense of family? It should not just be a concern for the future of China; it must also be a concern for the rest of the world.