Experience Culture Through Textiles


Every textile tells a story if you know what to look for, especially the antique textiles you’ll see in museums and elegant shops throughout Asia and Southeast Asia. Going to local markets, museums, and festivals allows you to truly immerse yourself in the culture.

The raw material – cotton, silk, plant fibers or camel hair – tells you where the weaving was done. The colors speak volumes about when it was woven.  And the patterns reveal the icons and symbols of the culture. Was the weaver a professional?  If so, the textile is probably worn only on special occasions. Prized pieces are often given as gifts and passed down from one generation to the next.  

Contemporary textiles typically combine the old and the new, especially in fabric used for household goods and clothing.  These are the fabrics of the market place and are designed to appeal to international travelers as well as locals.  And no matter how much you tell yourself that you’re not to buy more “stuff,” you’ll find textiles are the most irresistible… and packable! 

Here are three distinctive parts of Southeast Asia that boast some strikingly beautiful and complex textiles – India’s Gujarat, China’s Guizhou and Indonesia’s Flores and Sumba. 

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