Models present creations featuring embroidery of Miao ethnic group from southwest China's Guizhou Province during Milan Fashion Week in Milan, Italy, Sept. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Jin Mamengni)
GUIYANG, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Over the past week, far away from Milan Fashion Week, Wang Rongbi, a resident of Xiaogulong Village in Guizhou Province, has been glued to her cellphone, eagerly awaiting updates about the Italian show.
"I have never been abroad, but my embroidery has," Wang said.
Wang is among a group of embroidery designers from Guizhou in southwest China whose works were chosen to exhibit at the just-concluded event. Their exquisite works were selected to showcase the traditional artistry of China's Miao ethnic minority and wow international fashion designers.
The Miao are one of China's minority groups, and more than 4.3 million call Guizhou home. Their intricate, kaleidoscopic embroidered costumes, featuring unique patterns inspired by nature and their ethnic history, are recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage and regarded as a "living fossil" of Miao culture.
One month ago, when her works were chosen for presentation at Milan Fashion Week, Wang and her fellow embroiderers quickly got to work in their workshop deep in the village of Xiaogulong.
The fruits of their labor were displayed Sunday at an exhibition co-sponsored by the Chinese Consulate General in Milan and the Guizhou provincial government that presented traditional Miao costumes and other Miao handicrafts.
Filled with immense pride for her heritage, Wang's pieces feature distinctive seals embroidered on the chest, back, and sleeves in a nod to her branch of the Miao ethnic group, the Siyin Miao. "Siyin" in Chinese means four seals.
A model presents a creation featuring embroidery of Miao ethnic group from southwest China's Guizhou Province during Milan Fashion Week in Milan, Italy, Sept. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Jin Mamengni)
According to legend, the ancestors of the Siyin Miao people held the seals for the king, but they were separated by war. They embroidered the seals on their clothes as an identifying signal to each other. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation and has evolved into the decorations on clothes.
"The girls in the family would embroider a four-seal dress when they were young. The first time they wore the dress was when they got married, and the last time was when they were buried," said Wang, underscoring that the dress was only for the most important festivals and occasions.
Shi Chuanying, 45, another Miao embroiderer from Taijiang County in Guizhou, also spent the last seven days in a fashion-week high. But, while Wang followed the event from China, Shi had a front-row seat.
In July, Shi received an invitation from the provincial department of culture and tourism to attend Milan Fashion Week. On Sept. 21, Shi left for Milan with two traditional costumes and 10 embroidered pieces destined for the catwalk.
"I was one of 17 embroiderers who worked nonstop for 20 days to complete the 10 pieces. We cherished this opportunity and were committed to hitting our target no matter how difficult," said Shi.
The day before leaving for Milan, Shi and her husband checked their luggage often, nervous they had forgotten any essential tools, even a thread or a needle. Despite never being abroad and not knowing the distance between Italy and China, she knew the trip to Milan would open a new and exciting chapter.
Both Wang and Shi are intensely proud that the traditional costumes of their ethnic group have been presented on the international stage, boosting confidence in the inheritance and development of Miao embroidery.
"Traditional handicrafts can be very fashionable, and our ethnic culture has plenty of global appeal," said Wang.