“Designing dresses, choosing fabrics, and having them transformed into dresses has become my passion. I already have too many dresses, but I didn’t want to stop and I felt that the project could support artisans in Myanmar. And that’s the reason I decided to start Lilla.”
Julie ,who is a French and Swedish national, came to Myanmar in 2016 while she was traveling in Asia.
“I quickly fell in love with the country and decided to stay here. I had a few handicraft jobs and when I discovered handweaving, I became crazy about Myanmar traditional textiles.”
As soon as Julie arrived in Myanmar, she started buying fabrics to make longyi and found a tailor who could make dresses in the street she lived in. The tailor was working in good conditions and she had to give fair wages for the products so Julie started to wear dresses regularly. “Then, my friends started asking me where they could find such dresses. At that time, I realized that I’ve been very passionate about those fabrics and dresses so I decided to establish Lilla, which can also be a project that can support artisans in Myanmar.” Julie said.
When asked about her interest in the traditional weaving industry, Julie said “Before arriving in Myanmar, I had no idea what handweaving was and I had never had an interest in textiles. But, on a trip to Chin State 4 years ago, I saw a wonderful red Falam textile and thought it was very extraordinary so I started to buy more and more textiles. Sometime later, a lady who is an expert in handweaving brought me to Yoyamay in Bogyoke Market and taught me the difference between fabrics woven on weaving looms and fabrics handwoven on backstrap looms. Daw Khun Shwe, the owner of Yoyamay, also explained to me about the traditional weaving industry of Myanmar and that’s how my interest and passion in traditional weaving grew even bigger.”
When Julie started Lilla, she assumed the cotton used for weaving was produced locally, however, the more weavers she met, the more she understood that the weavers use the threads they find at the market and she also knew that any type of weaving materials from different countries are being used for weaving.
The fabrics used now at Lilla are made with local cotton yarn produced in the middle region of Myanmar and naturally dyed in Amarapura Township.
Lilla specialized in Chin textiles, which are produced in different parts of Myanmar such as Chin State, Northern Rakhine, Inle and more.
She then explained about the process of weaving different types of textiles. The weaving technique used in Southern Chin and Northern Rakhine is one-faced supplementary weft patterning, meaning that the pattern is created on the front only and not visible on the reverse side. The fabrics from Falam or Hakha, for example, are woven using a two-faced supplementary weft patterning, and therefore, have visible floating threads at the back.
The products you can get from Lilla include dresses, jackets, jumpsuits and also tops and trousers. They also produce shirts for men. Lilla offers different price ranges for different products- prices range from 25,000 to 100,000 Ks for simple clothes made with textiles woven on weaving looms. For unique dresses and jackets made with naturally dyed textiles handwoven on backstrap looms and sewn at Turquoise Mountain’s atelier, the prices range from 150000 to 300000 Ks.
For those who want to order customized items, you can contact Lilla via Facebook or Instagram and they will arrange an appointment to create unique items for you.
“It is advised that the clothes be hand washed with natural soap in cold water and hung dried. Also, it is better not to expose them to direct sunlight for too long as it might change the colour of the clothes.”
Chin backstrap woven textiles are mostly woven by women in their homes in villages in Northern Rakhine and in Chin State. Textiles woven on weaving looms are made in Myitkyina, Amarapura, and around Inle.
Julie then explained about the impact of COVID-19 on Lilla. “Because of this pandemic, the production was complicated to handle since a lot of clients were leaving. The artisans could not come to the workshop anymore and had to work from home. Also, the stores where Lilla products can be bought had to be closed. But, slowly, things are getting better now.”
She then concluded, “I have learnt a lot about the fashion industry and its problems and outcomes since I first started Lilla. I always advise people to think twice before they buy clothes: Do you really need this? Will you still wear it in a few years? Is it made with natural materials? In what conditions is it made? What are you supporting by buying this piece of clothing?”
Lilla products are available in Yangon at Hla Day store on Pansodan Road and at Commune Wear store on Yan Shin Street. Moreover, they are also sometimes available at Makers’ Market in Karaweik Garden.