Clothing, What is the distinction between function vs art form? Clothing in its purist essence was used to protect humans from the elements. Throughout history, clothing has transcended its basic and primal function. It has become a representation and a reflection of a group of people or individuals. For Hill Tribe Fusion designers Mang and Xeng Thao, their designs reflect their creative thoughts and their clothing have become artwork draped on a human form. Hill Tribe Fusion is a collaboration of two indie designers Mang and Xeng Thao. Based in Northern California, their love of Anime and Gothic Lolita inspired them to create their own designs with the Lolita Style. They are highly influenced by Japanese Street Fashion and love to infuse their Hmong culture in their designs by giving it a twist.
Mang and Xeng love all things fantasy and couture. They started Hill Tribe Fusion in 2008 by selling their designs at Anime Conventions. By wearing their traditional Hmong clothing to the conventions, Mang and Xeng attracted more customers who were interested in the bright colors of their traditional dresses. In 2012 they showcased at their first Lolita Fashion Show and since then have showcased at the Hmong Music Festival Sacramento Fashion Week, many shows in the SF Bay area and Northern California and even a show in the Virgin Islands.
Mang has always been amazed of how the clothing from her traditional Hmong culture has evolved to an art form where the traditional clothes are decorated with immaculate cross stitch designs, intricate embroidery, and reverse appliqué motifs. The decorated fabric is known as “Paj Ntaub” or flower cloth. As a child, Mang would watch her mother sew delicate and flawless cross stitch designs. To her mother, every scrap of fabric and thread was precious and could be used to create clothing. After recently being showcased in Fashion Art Santa Cruz, Hill Tribe Fusion collaborated with one of their models for the show A Allysha Anne Mickey and Photographer Lance Miller of www.jlphotographydesign.com & MUA Hair Artist Letty De La Cruz for this editorial. Mang designed a simple but elegant gown to compliment an elaborate headdress. Xeng created the headdress using the white traditional fabric from the Hmong culture to infuse their heritage into the shoot. The avant-garde design with the white Mohawk was created with Mang thinking of the line drawings that an artist use for sketches. Would she be able to create a dress from just outlines? Would it even consider a dress? Like a drawing, it can successfully represent the form. The white Mohawk was also created by Xeng using the traditional Hmong Fabric. In the Hmong culture, a dress is not complete unless it has a headdress worn with the outfit. With admiration of Native American headdresses she wanted to create one using traditional fabric yet have her own artistic take on it.
The mohawk was originally featured on one of her designs for Fashion Art Santa Cruz on a white Knight design piece for a warrior.The horns on the white headdress is a symbol of shamanism in the Hmong culture. Bulls horns are used in shamanistic rituals and the bull is a big part of the Hmong New Year. The horns are also Hill Tribe Fusions homage to ancient warrior Chiyou from China who is the ancestor of the Hmong people and is always depicted wearing bull horns.