Journal 04. Secrets & curiosities of Yuanfen collection #1 : The Miao pleated skirt

WE DIDN’T FIND THE PLEATED SKIRT, SHE’S THE ONE WHO CAME TO MEET US.

The Miao minority lives mainly in Guizhou province in China. Within this immense region, each community, although belonging to the same minority, has its own particularities regarding the textile heritage. Each family gives clothing a special meaning that refers both to the history of Miao people and to their own family heritage. 

Miao traditional clothing has been a key element in the development of Miao indigenous communities. Indeed, since the vast majority of them could not read or write, they immortalized their history through the patterns drawn or embroidered on the clothes, which they passed on from generation to generation. Each piece of clothing thus bears witness to a specific identity, a family heritage and the rich history of the Miao minority. 

Miao traditional handmade embroidery

IN SEARCH OF THE SUMPTUOUS MIAO PLEATED SKIRT

Since the beginning of this project, Adriana, our fashion designer, has always had an obsessive desire: to find artisans capable of creating one of the most meticulous and emblematic pieces of the traditional textiles of the Miao people: the beautiful pleated skirt. After a long search, we finally found someone willing to teach us this ancestral technique and provide us with the necessary materials for the clothing of the collection. With great joy and relief, Zhang Xing thus opened us the door to one of the most interesting Miao techniques, yet in perdition, which we wish to preserve. However, as we mentioned in another article, the yuanfen, or destiny, is always capricious and sometimes guides us to other paths. 

Read on to find out more…

Details of Miao pleated fabric

29/12/2019

On our last trip to China in December, we spent our first days in Beijing. We visited one of the largest antique and traditional handicraft markets in the city, the unmissable Panjiayuan market. Our objective was to find various decorative objects for our shootings and our showroom in Madrid, as well as elements to make accessories for the fashion show.

In the market’s alleys, by pure chance or rather thanks to the destiny that has been smiling at us since the beginning of the project, we met Pan Xiaomei. After a few brief exchanges, this tradeswoman of traditional clothing and textiles from the Miao minority, to which she belongs, confided to us that she was going to go back home to Guizhou to celebrate the end of the year celebrations with her family. Pan Xiaomei explained that she has always collected the pleated skirts of her ancestors and these could be interesting for us. She asked us spontaneously if we were ready to deviate a little from our original itinerary in Guizhou, to go to the village of Tianhe to visit her. She also kindly proposed us to collect the skirts of the other women of her village to show them to us. What do you think we did? Of course, we accept. We can’t miss such an opportunity.  

Miao traditional pleated skirt

We invite you to watch the following video. Pan Xiaomei unrolls for us the pleated skirt that her great-grandmother had made, with the same meticulous gestures as generations before her. This is one of the most extraordinary moments we have experienced together so far. It was a very moving, almost  a solemn moment. It had been about twenty years since Pan Xiaomei had unveiled this skirt, we were very privileged. 

Pan Xiaomei unrolling the pleated skirt

Pan Xiaomei’s wood house in Tianhe Village

Pan Xiaomei is a very endearing person. From the very first moments of our meeting, she was attentive and benevolent with us. She invited us with her family and neighbors to share a large meal together. They were singing their traditional songs in which they pray for us to return one day to their village after our departure. Don’t worry Pan Xiaomei, we will come back to you. You are undoubtedly one of our main collaborators in the future. Thank you for sharing with us the beauty of tradition and for having transmitted us your passion for Miao’s exceptional craftsmanship.  

Pan Xiaomei and her friend singing Miao traditional songs during the lunch

During this visit, we were finally able to find THE skirt that will be our reference to develop this pleating technique in the future. We also collected four of the last fifteen pleated skirts that remain in this village. They are no longer manufactured because their production is extremely laborious and meticulous. 

At DEYI 德逸, our main objective is to create contemporary design clothing using the ancestral textile techniques and materials of the various Chinese minorities and thus participate in the preservation of this cultural heritage. In the YUANFEN collection, the dress that closed our fashion show was probably our most extraordinary piece, composed of three pleated skirts that we had collected in Tianhe. These century-old skirts were transformed into a very contemporary and elegant exclusive dress. 

Designer & Stylist : Adriana Cagigas, Models : @models_mbfwmadrid, Photographer : @trivialityisdeath @mbfwmadrid

There is still a lot to tell you about this exceptional pleated fabric. We will explain in another article how this skirt is made. We are not going to tell you everything at once. Join us in this adventure, which will never cease to surprise you. 

DEYI 德逸 TEAM

Pan Xiaomei wearing her wedding traditional costume

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