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Katu textile, traditional clothes shine among foreigners

Currently, fashion and clothes from overseas or Western societies are popular with Lao people, especially teenagers.

On the other hand, some foreigners are interested in traditional Lao textiles style.

Katu textiles, from Katu ethic group in Houayhountai village, Lao Ngam district of Saravan province, is a famous textile producers in Laos that attracts many foreigners.

A committee member of Katu textiles group, Ms Boukeo describes the quality of her products during the exhibition early this month at Lao-ITECC in Vientiane.

The Katu textiles group was established in 2000 by a few members who used their free time after farming to weave their traditional textiles, not only for themselves but also to sell in order to get extra income to support their families.

“I am very proud to present my ethic textiles to visitors during the exhibition in Vientiane where it can promote my products to the domestic and foreign people,” Katu textiles group committee member Ms Boukeo told Vientiane Times.

She said the group aimed to promote the traditional textiles from their predecessor to the next generation, while also helping members of the group to earn more income to support their families.

One of the most important things the group established was to preserve the unique culture and beautiful texture of Katu clothes.

Traditional Katu textiles are weaved from cotton and dyed with non-chemical colours.

The colouring process requires a lot of skills to make different colours as well as achieve a permanent result.

Even through the fabric is hand woven with natural dye, it is durable and does not fade.

In 2005, it was announced the group's high quality products were good enough to display ‘One District One Product' (ODOP) labels.

Nearly 90 percent of their customers are foreigners who fall in love with the traditional style, while some of them buy their textiles when they see how difficult it is to make Katu fabric.

“The products from our group are still not famous among Lao people because there are a higher price compared to machine-made fabric for general sale,” Ms Boukeo explained.

Katu clothes take time to create and finish, especially Katu dresses, which are made from that stringing many small white beads with cotton before weaving fordecoration.

This kind of dress takes about five to six months to finish and sells for around 1.5 million kip.

To increase the market share from Lao people, the group adapted their materials and began producing other types of products, such as bags, scarves, Katu dress, Katu skirt and another clothes in order to attract more customers.

Some machines make cotton and chemical colours is used to weave their textiles which can reduce the price of their products.

Currently, there are two choices for products: traditional, handmade textiles with natural colouring, and a mix between traditional handmade and machine.

But all of their products are still woven by people, and it is the first choice that has the higher price.

Katu textile pricesarebetween 20,000 and 1.5 million kip, depends on materials, size,and the pattern.

Total income for the group from selling their products is between three million to more than 15 million kip per month, depending on the season.

The products sell better in the dry season but are harder to sell during rainy season because there are less tourists.

Income from their weaving is not much to support other family members, however, they mostly use their free time to make textiles to earn extra income.

However, the group is proud to preserve their traditions for as long as they can.

The group has been invited to present their products in Vientiane several times and the group also promotes its products through customer feedback.

“In the future, I hope our group could extend our customers to all provinces in Laos to prom ote Katu textile to reach to all people nationwide,”Ms Boukeo said.

Katu textile is not only about making clothes to wear, but also the traditions as well as history which is passed down generations.

 

By Souksamai Boulom
(Latest Update July 19, 2017)

 

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