Sunday, June 05, 2011

lotus flower fabric

So my friend from California calls me up and we are having a conversation. It went something like this...

CN: I was reading a Luxos magazine article about this great fiber that comes from the stems of the Lotus Flower....have you ever heard about it?

NO, says I.

She went on to read me parts of the article..I became intrigued. Especially when I heard that the fiber must be spun and woven within 3 days of avoid deterioration...It is said that the woven fiber feels like a combination of the finest silk and linen...

Apparently, Loro Piana (a high end Italian clothing company) has trademarked Loro Piana Lotus Flower fabric, and a simple jacket made from this Lotus Flower should sell for about $5,600 US dollars...or about 4,000 euros.

After our phone conversation ended, I went online to see what else I could find out about the fabric. After reading and watching about how this regional textile is being harvested and spun and woven, I can't help but want to touch a piece of the fabric. From the descriptions that I read, if you place the fibers under the microscope, they look sponge like, with little holes in them.

As far as I could tell, the fabric isn't available for sale in the U.S. due to trade sanctions and a ban against products that come from Myanmar (and the totalitarian government in power). There are plans to manufacture the fiber in Italy and then export the finished goods to the U.S.

I watched several different Youtube videos of the women that were actually doing the process of harvesting, spinning and weaving of the lotus flower stems.

Then I wondered about the person who would buy a jacket for six thousand dollars. Then I wondered if the women who harvest, spin and weave the fabric for the jackets could ever afford to buy one for themselves. And then I got all caught up in wondering about politics and money and governments and lifestyles etc.

Finally, I decided to go back to thinking about the fiber from the lotus flower stems, and what it must feel like to work with. Have to admit, it made me start to wonder what is inside the stems of my pond lilies.


Valerie said...

Interesting that you should post this today. I just had a conversation at church this AM with a friend about the impact of the very uneven distribution of resources. Especially what it means for women.

Also just read a post on complex weavers about a 176 page weaver's manuscript that was made economically from just one folded sheet of paper to document 27 years of weaving here
When did we trade our values for thrift and economy for consumption and greed?

Time for some contemplation at the loom...
let us know about your pond lilies.

(Ha...found my answer in the verification word: "prettees" )

cyndy said...

Yes, what once was created for the robes of the most exalted Buddhist Monks, can now be yours for only $6,ooo.oo..

Great link Valerie! thanks!

Lynn said...

Now I want to dig a pond and grow American Lotus in it - do you suppose the stems would yield the same fiber?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I would love to touch some of that fabric too. Don't think I will be doing that though since I couldn't afford a $6000 jacket. Geez. It is amazing what one can do with something so unusual if you know what you are doing. I am sure the poor women that make the fabric couldn't afford the jacket. I wonder what they think of people that could afford such luxury??

cyndy said...


I know, right? I want to try it too!

According to the article, the species is nelumbo nucifera..which last I looked was available from some plant and garden markets...hardy to zone 4...plants are about twenty dollars


And Lisa...I'm tempted to write to the company and ask for a sample swatch of the fabric, I couldn't afford a jacket or a scarf!

Sahara said...

Hi everyone,

L. Piana has little ethics; those women aren't going to make any decent money, and they're probably not told about the cost of the jacket, to have to think about it, because they'll think of their wages. When I worked as a knitwear designer for a major company, and traveled to overseas factories, I learned the hard way what happens when you have enough ethics to actually communicate with the sewers about product costs; I was almost fired, not flown overseas and they stopped hiring designers of color to go to factories of color.

Sahara said...

Fashion companies are invariably always late as well. Lotus flower fabric is made throughout Asia, and has been for the longest. Laborious and consumptive, it's remained local––like pineapple fiber in the Philippines. There are companies who sell the fabric here. It's a bit slubby, but soft and doesn't wrinkle like pure linen. You'll like it, but it won't be impressive.

Consumers will pay for the L. Piana name and advertising that'll make folks think it's rarer than it is, and that they have more style than the clothes made from it sold in Asia.

Cathy said...

Sahara's comments just blew me away - thank you!!

And I'll stick to Shetland... but I can see right now you are up to no good. I want to hang over your shoulder to see what you end up doing.

Jody said...

That is quite amazing I think (extremely labour intensive) :-)

Caroline said...

In fact, I wonder if any one of those women will see as much money in her whole life as one of those jackets sells for!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

Very intersting and informative post, thanks for sharing.

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