Artisan Spotlight: Karen Hill Tribe

by Margaret

Found predominately in Myanmar and Thailand, the Karen (pronounced “Ka-ri-ung”) hill tribes are most renowned for sporting elongating neck rings (though this is only a small percentage of individuals). However, the Karen people also produce some of the most vibrant and geometrically astounding garments available amongst south-east Asia’s hill tribes.

Often using a combination of hand embroidery and loom-work, the people of the Karen hill tribes have an eye for detail that has been admired across the globe.

Interestingly enough, though the Karen fabrics used in our bags are extremely vibrant and appear “as new”, many of these fabulous pieces were made over 30 years ago. The reason they are in such great condition is due to an intriguing cultural practice still honoured today.

Girls of the Karen hill tribe are expected to create intricate and masterfully hand-crafted shirts to represent their skills and “potential” to prospective mother-in-laws. The thing is, once these garments have been made they are hardly ever worn – just either put in a cupboard or on display.

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