The U.S Department of State hosted its eighth annual Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) competition in 2018. A team of motivated alumni from YSAELI and the Benjamin A. Gilman exchange programs have been selected for helping aid in fostering economic prosperity. They are facilitating a project dedicated to promoting traditional customs within the apparel, art, and handicraft industry. Lao Fair Trade Fashion Week (LFTFW) aims to further enhance the development and economy of ethnic villages and the overall Lao community by helping promote Made in Lao products.
With 49 distinct ethnicities and 200 ethnic subgroups, Lao PDR is an incredibly diverse nation, rich in culture, custom and tradition. In order to preserve and promote these cultures for future generations, it is essential to educate youth on the unique traditions of their ethnic heritage. One important distinguisher of culture among all of Lao PDR’s ethnic groups, is the different fashion traditions.
Fashion has always been the only visible distinguisher of culture. Throughout history, fashion, in terms of ethnic dress is the main identifier of culture and history. The Lao Government seeks to preserve and promote fine custom, tradition and culture which is unique for each ethnic group. (World Bank).
The Fair-Trade Fashion Week of Laos will focus on showcasing Youth Designers and their team will have the opportunity to display their designs in the runway shows. This will increase economic prosperity by having a common place to sell their goods. “In a UNICEF-led rapid assessment involving interviews and focus groups with a total of 72 young [minority] people at risk of HIV, including drug users, sex workers and LGBT youth, young people described a lack of options in education, employment and sustainable opportunities to generate income” (UNICEF Lao PDR and the Ministry of Health (2011).
Our focus is to encourage the youth to express their creative potential through art and design, especially due to barriers of formal education and employment.
However, due to lack of collaborative networking opportunities, there is currently little to no bridge between local designers and textile weaving villages in Laos. Laos Fair Trade Fashion Week or LFTFW is dedicated to promoting traditional customs within dress, art, and handicrafts to further enhance the development and economy of ethnic villages and the overall Lao community by promoting Made in Lao products. This opportunity will build awareness to empower and educate our youth and ethnic minority groups in order to help combat separation and create unity within the developing apparel industry of Lao.
The program will organize an opportunity for selected Lao youth designers and local fair trade and/or handicraft merchants to partner together and work with artisans from ethnic weaving villages. This three-day event will help bridge the gap between Lao designers, artisans, fair trade shops, handicraft merchants and consumers in order to increase products authenticity using sustainable business practices within the handicraft and fair trade apparel industry. Traditional techniques, eco-friendly materials and dyes with the dedicated cultural and historical contextual fashion and art pieces of the local community and youth designers will be displayed for the competition during the event days.
In addition, designers and associated members will have the opportunity to attend workshops covering fair trade practices, creative design principals, digital marketing techniques, product quality and/or developing a transparent cost strategy. Lastly, another objective of LFTFW will be collecting available sources and information on artisans’ producers throughout the country to be an available online and offline resource for our stakeholders.
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