On The Timeless Appeal Of Bhutan’s Traditional Costumes And How To Safeguard The Creative Ideas Of The Weavers
Some homemade rules to protect innovative designs, even if they are not recognised internationally, could encourage Bhutanese weavers.
By Staff Reporter | Kuensel
Bhutan’s rich textile heritage is not only fashionable, but always evolving. Our textile is our tradition. In fact, it is one of the few customs that has survived the forces of change.
The Honglo and the Tari Kiras, which once only the elderly wore to beat the cold is back in fashion today. They will stay and so will the Bumtha Mathra, the Sethras and the Tsangthras.
Today, some Bhutanese wear the Mathra skirts and Sethra shirts. They are identified with Bhutan and stands out even if they are worn in a crowded New York City street! That is how rich and distinct our textile heritage is.
The timeless appeal of Bhutan’s traditional costumes – the Gho and Kira
Even if the materials used to weave our textiles may change with the availability of cheaper yarns, the patterns and designs are unique to Bhutan and will always be in fashion. After all, we have been wearing the Mathra Ghos and Kiras for decades.
His Majesty the King wears the Gho while Her Majesty wears the Kira.
Photo: Bhutan Today
With improved purchasing power, there is more demand for locally woven textiles. This in turn will encourage more Bhutanese women to weave.
Moreover, the Royal Textile Academy is also taking it further by training students in the art of traditional weaving.
The National Design and Art competition encourages weavers to be innovative and participation is on the rise every year.
Problems with acquiring patents for the original designer
However, the original designer of patterns to be woven face some issues with patents in the small local textile industry.
A designer may take pains and a great deal of time to develop a new pattern only to see it being replicated by other weavers before her design eventually reaches the cloth mills in India.
Some designers who employ dozens of women to weave also face the challenge of not being recognised for her ideas because international law does not allow us to patent our designs.
By law, a product needs an owner to be patented, but our intricate designs such as the Kushu Thara or Aie kapur are in the public domain. To compound the problem, their origins are not known.
With demand from consumers for new designs, colours and styles, our weavers are forced to be innovative. That is why we see new designs every now and then.
The Weaving School (Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan) trains students in traditional weaving, the art of yarn dyeing, contemporary skills related to design and colour combinations and also the basics of business and book-keeping skills. As of June 2016, eleven batches comprising of more than 200 trainees have completed their training.
Photo: Facebook/Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan
Some of the best Bhutanese weave or designs come from weavers and not from design college graduates.
How designs are being ‘copied and replicated’
Unfortunately, there is no way we can reward these innovative designers. Their effort or idea cannot be protected.
All it takes is a click from a mobile phone for a photo to be uploaded online and shared with other weavers or employers of women weavers.
The last National Design and Art award recognised both the weavers and designers, with a major chunk of the prize being given to the weaver.
It is safe to surmise that from what the designers say, many original ideas were lost as a result.
To solve this issue, some homemade rules to protect innovative designs, even if they are not recognised internationally, could encourage Bhutanese weavers.
Other than weaving for the tourist market, most of the local weaves actually find their market within Bhutan itself.
This article first appeared in kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.