Part of the reason I LOVE shooting for NOVICA in Association with National Geographic, is that I don’t just get to shoot their fashion catalog shoots all over the world, but I get to meet and spend time with the REAL artisans that create these sometimes vanishing art forms and cultural traditions from around the world. Recently in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I took a trip with Sarah Natasha to visit the Karen Hill Tribe, AKA the “Long Neck” tribe. These people live along the northern part of Thailand in the Himalayan Foothills near the Burmese border. They speak their own unique languages, live a very simple, rustic life and are known for their women who wear colorful woven clothing and heavy, brass rings to “elongate” their necks. In reality, the heavy brass rings push down on their collarbones giving the appearance of a longer neck without stretching the actual vertebrae.
We were able to meet and document these women and their families at work weaving their elaborate, colorful, patterned weavings. The Karen live in such remote regions that it’s hard to sell their crafts and this is where NOVICA comes in. Artisans like Chirada Loetparisanyu spend their time gathering vibrant woven garments from multiple hill tribes spanning from Vietnam to Thailand to China and fashion them into gorgeous leather purses and bags that can be found for sale on www.Novica.com today. Not only is it supporting local artisans in Thailand but also the surrounding hill tribes allowing their culture to survive.
By connecting local hill tribes to a global market place, NOVICA artisans are helping to empower women by providing jobs and allowing them to earn money for the family while also preserve their cultural heritage and helping to support the economy of their local community. NOVICA hopes to promote awareness for endangered traditions and provide a place where you can not only purchase these fleeting art forms but also pledge your support. In the past, artists have been forced to give up their art in favor of a more lucrative career. Now, NOVICA allows them to carry on with their craft by providing them a platform by which they can operate a sustainable and creative business.