For more than 40 years, naturally occurring fibers from seagrass, water hyacinth, jute, bamboo from the villages of Vietnam have been transformed into woven handicraft products by craftswomen. The oldest seagrass village in Vietnam’s Nga Son district has existed for more than 150 years and since 1970 is home to Viet Trang, a handicraft collective that was turned into a manufacturing company by Tran Thi Viet in 2001. “Since my childhood our village has been proud to be the oldest traditional village of seagrass handicraft making. At that time, everyone in the village worked on seagrass fields to do harvesting, processing raw materials and weaving them to make finished handicraft products. Especially our seagrass products were very well known for its high quality material, durability and sophisticated techniques. Fortunately, until now, we are still able to keep our beautiful tradition alive and are continuously enhancing it to meet international market standards for exporting. This is the most significant reason motivating me to found Viet Trang Handicraft Company,” she says.
Each fiber used for the collection of woven products is cut, split and dried by farmers. Seagrass in particular is best harvested in the afternoon and split the next morning for the base fiber to be of the highest quality. This is followed by three days of drying in the sun before the fibers are ready to be twisted and woven by skilled artisans. Product design dictates the way these natural materials will be braided and twisted using the unique skills of the craftswomen.
Having worked with artisans from the region since establishment, Tran Thi Viet received the gold prize at the UNCTAD EMPRETEC Women in Business Awards 2016, which recognizes women from developing and in-transition economies for their contribution towards founding successful enterprises, creating jobs and becoming role models in their local communities. Winning the top position from among 100 nominees, Thi Vet credits the success of her handicraft business of basket-woven goods to the women from the village who have worked alongside her for forty years. From a fledgling start, the company now exports goods worth USD 100 million to the European Union and provides employment to 250 weavers, alongside preserving the traditional weaving culture of the region. “By utilizing local resources, we can leverage the regional economy, generate income for artisans, specifically for women, who know how to weave since the time they were little girls. Moreover, by doing business efficiently, we can preserve and develop our tradition by passing skills down through younger generations,” says Thi Vet. Currently the company is focused on exporting to markets outside the EU such as the United States. “With our eco-friendly natural fiber products, our desire is to promote the sustainable lifestyle we were taught by our ancestors and to now share it with the world,” she says.
Find out more at http://viettrangcraft.com.