Lhasa on September 2, turned from the capital of Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region into Fashion Central featuring a runway show as part of the Xue Dun Festival, clad in traditional Tibetan ethnic costumes — with a 21st Century twist. From Guizhou Province’s Buyi Minority to Lhasa’s Hui Tibetan, we ask… How major is the minority fashion footprint?
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST IS BASED ON AN ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN CHINESE BY XINHUA NEWS AGENCY ON SEPTEMBER 2, 2016. ENGLISH TRANSLATION, INTERPRETATION AND ADDITIONAL EDITING BY ELSBETH VAN PARIDON.
Tibetan minority clothing covers an important spot in Tibetan culture, originating from a long, unique and extremely varied tradition.
Lhasa on the morning of September 2, turned from the capital of Southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region into a fashion city featuring a runway show as part of the Xue Dun Festival, clad in traditional Tibetan ethnic costumes — with a 21st Century twist. The elaborate show, broadcasted on China Central Television, brought Tibetan brands to a broader audience – and bigger buyers market.
Tibetan minority clothing covers an important spot in Tibetan culture, originating from a long, unique and extremely varied tradition. The traditional male wardrobe leans towards the more robust and unrestrained styles, whereas the female closet has more than 200 style options of female clothing, taking it to a level of variation seldom seen in ethnic clothing worldwide.
The Tibetan dress diversity comes according to area climate, people’s labor activities and religious culture; one constant remains the use of bright colors and bold ornaments – all blending together in perfect harmony.
Generally speaking, both sexes wear a short upper garment made of silk, or cloth, with long sleeves on the inside and a looser robe with large lapels on the outside. They pair these garments with high boots crafted from cattle hide. Underlinen is indispensable, with the male-styled fitted with high collars and the female ones turning the collars, yet both made of silk in different colors. The Tibetan dress diversity comes according to area climate, people’s labor activities and religious culture; one constant remains the use of bright colors and bold ornaments – all blending together in perfect harmony. Where heritage meets Hermès, so to speak.
Due to the area’s chilly temperatures, Lhasa’s men and women traditionally wear long thick dresses (or chuba) cinched in with a thick, wide cloth belt. The men sometimes wear a shorter version with pants underneath. Should you ever receive an invitation to some local hoedown, know that Tibetans deem a hada as the most precious among gifts. The hada is in fact a strip of snow-white scarf woven from yarn or silk. It symbolizes goodwill and respect, and can be present at various occasions of festivity. One should never show up empty-handed, non?
The Xue Dun Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet Festival, is a one-week extravaganza held since the 11th century, originally a religious occasion when locals would offer yogurt to the monks who had finished their meditation retreats. This year’s event featured Tibetan opera performances and exhibitions featuring thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton), paintings and photographs. And let’s not forget this year’s highly anticipated sartorial segment taken in with much gusto by locals, models and designers alike.
Among the audience were many of the older Tibetan generation, taking much pride in the way in which the presenting designers had knitted together “old and new” to create something reflective of Tibet – a crossroads where tradition and modernity meet. One such example is that of designer Genqoi Tashi who in 2012 established his brand Yeeom, a meshing of traditional Tibetan culture and modern fashion features. For the 2016 Xue Dun Festival, Tashi made sure all his runway ensembles had been made to reflect modern sartorial trends. “I tried to combine traditional craftsmanship with contemporary fashion styles,” Tashi explained, “And I hope that by doing so, I am not only promoting our culture, but helping to promote Tibetan costume to the younger generation.”
Far from pomp and circumstance, Xue Dun’s fashion fanfare flashed its spotlight on Tibetan costume, unpretentiously undressed and revamped. From the older generation to tourists and models, many took a shine to Sho Dun’s fashion defile. Xinhua recorded the following comments (of praise, that is):
“Traditional Tibetan clothes are often exquisite and sumptuous, and what I wore today was a prime example of that,” said 21-year-old Penpa Tashi, one of the models at Friday’s fashion show.
“It was a great show,” added Chen, a tourist from Lhasa’s neighboring Sichuan Province. “I really liked what I saw and I actually ordered some Tibetan clothes to wear at celebrations back home!”
“I am so very proud that our ethnic clothes are on display,” concluded local dame Pasang, “Our clothes are a reflection of our wisdom, creativity and artistic taste.”
And that’s a wide-belted-wrap. The influence of China’s 55, plus the Han majority, minorities transpires glimmers through many a designer collection across China and Taiwan. Whether we’re talking a Joyce Wang upcycled indigo-dyed garment, a Chinese lattice embellished Heirloom bag, a Taiwanese glint of godly styled fashion film by Au Matt or Yin Chao’s “Love in Tibet” shoot for ELLE China, the mythos and praxis of a multicultural society lives on through fashion. From Guizhou Province’s Buyi Minority to Lhasa’s Hui Tibetan, the minorities’ impact features in the majority of modern styles.