Kayah ethnic textiles fail to attract foreign buyers, rely on local demand

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A woman is weaving Kayah traditional fabrics on the loom.  Photo: MMAL

although business is booming in the travel industry, Kayah ethnic textiles are enjoying a strong demand in the domestic market, but have failed to catch the attention of tourists according to Kayah ethnic weavers.
“Most Kayah woven products are made of cotton, and a complete Kayah costume fetches around K100,000. Locals generally choose fabrics other than cotton for daily wear. Tourists feel those fabrics are not suited to the weather in their home country so we are finding it difficult to sell these fabrics to foreigners,” said a weaver. Earlier, there were few looms in Kayah State and Kayah ethnic textiles were usually produced in Amarapura Township. Forty years ago, looms began to be set up in Kayah State and the weaving business and distribution channels were commercialized.
“About 25 weavers can produce about 10 per day. The major difficulty the weaving industry is facing is retaining labor,” said U Nyunt Tin, who owns a Kayah weaving business.
“Nowadays, Kayah ethnic patterns are being produced on silk, which is popular among buyers. Foreigners mostly prefer cotton to Kayah ethnic textiles. There are not many Kayah ethnic designs and weavers haven’t worked on any new designs,” he added. “Kayah ethnic textiles are woven with the help of machines, and handmade textile businesses can be seen in some ethnic villages. Ethnic textiles usually rely on demand from the local market. We do not rely on new techniques and create new designs while maintaining traditional motifs. The Kayah ethnic longyis for men are bestsellers in the market,” said Daw Buu Myar.
The price of women’s traditional costumes ranges from K8,000 to K30,000, depending on the type of fabric used, such as silk or cotton. Longyis for men cost between K6,500 and K10,000.—IPRD
(Translated by La Wonn)

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