Unwritten Craft

TAMAY & ME connect people and fashion
Tamay & Hannah of are two women from two sides of the world, from two entirely different cultures. Their deep bond was formed after an intensive three-month embroidery apprenticeship in 2008 in Sapa, North Vietnam. 
Tamay taught Hannah the skills of rolling silk on her leg to make thread, working from the back of the cloth counting the weave and stitching the traditional patterns of the Red Dzao. It was a painstaking process of over 1,000 hours work, learning a skill that has never been written down. Tamay was taught the embroidery by her mother and her mother was taught by her mother. Each stitch is embedded with patience and persistence that makes a Dzao woman so proud and strong. A finished embroidery piece is a rich, heavy cloth of repeated symbolic patterns representing the people, the mountains, the rice paddies, the trees and the elders. Alongside learning embroidery, Hannah describes… “We chatted, made mistakes, laughed and chatted more. We discussed: the advantages and disadvantages of having a mobile phone; rice cookers; eating cheap chicken in the market; formal education. We discussed: what it is to be a woman; the responsibility of keeping the house; childcare; home births; breastfeeding; nappy free babies; periods; sex; money; men; alcohol; feeding communities; housing; responsibility to look after the sick and the elderly.” …. “Every day we would put the world to rights, discussing the positives and negatives of traditional and modern life. Tamay living a traditional life on the brink of becoming modernized and me hankering for traditional wisdom in an overwhelming modern existence.” 
Years later, together they created the ethical fashion label TAMAY & ME, making jackets based on a traditional men’s style from the Vietnamese mountains. Tamay organises the production which has been designed around the skills and the needs of the Dzao and the Black Tay people.
The pair have two main objectives, firstly, to connect people with how clothing is made, where it comes from, even how it is grown - just at the time when the ethical fashion industry is gathering momentum. And simultaneously working to encourage traditional ethnic minority textiles and to share Dzao cultural wisdom on a global platform. As the Dzao move towards modern asian life where smart phones and rice cookers dictate how things are done, there has become a sense of urgency.
Carefully sourced, the cloth comes from a nearby Black Tay village where the families grow, spin and weave the organic cotton on handlooms in their homes, as they always have done. Tamay & Me want to encourage the small scale cotton production, it is entirely handmade and beautiful quality. The weavers work closely with the indigo dyer, Yeun, who uses homegrown fermented indigo and dyes the cloth different tones in her back yard.
The jackets are then sewn in Ta Phin village where Tamay lives. Tamay buys pieces of embroidery that have been reclaimed from old and damaged clothes so that people continue primarily to make embroideries for themselves. Phan Ta May, Chou and his wife May work from home making the jackets in their own time. They are delighted to be able to have a regular income away from the tourist industry that they can pick up and put down with family life.  The finishing touches are hand plaited silk, appliqué work and metal buttons, all also sourced from local traditional artisans.
Every step of production of the jackets celebrates the way the Dzao and the Tay make and wear clothes. Tamay & Me want to celebrate traditional culture and to create conversations about the best bits of how we live and what we wear. Their instagram and blog is rich in anecdotes and stories that encompass much more than just cloth… Follow them on instagram: @tamayandme and Facebook: @tamayandme and check out the latest colours of indigo due in their online shop by the beginning of June, www.tamayandme.com 


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