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Woman prospers with brocade fabric business

Update: October, 23/2007 - 00:00

Woman prospers with brocade fabric business


An artisan sells Cham-style brocade products from My Nghiep Village, Ninh Thuan Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Nhat Anh

Ninh Thuan — If Thuan Thi Tru has her way, Cham-style brocade fabrics will become a fashion statement worldwide.

The first Vietnamese to introduce these fabrics to the international market, Tru now exports over 500 brocade varieties produced by her Inrahani Brocade Company. She has taken the helm of the Tan Phu brocade textile factory, located in precinct 4 of HCM City, where she serves as director for the 50 employees.

The Cham woman’s story has a moral: follow your heart and trust your talents. Brocade weaving has long been her passion, but her early attempts to sell her products in western Viet Nam fell flat. Tru moved from her native Ninh Thuan Province to pursue other career options.

In describing the path she had travelled, Tru says she cannot believe she has finally made it.

"My husband and I tried everything to make our living, including collecting manure to fertilise our vegetable garden," she says. "But we were defeated! My husband and I decided to return to our native village and open a coffee shop."

Tru saw her chance to go back to her real talent in 1988, when she heard that someone in HCM City wanted to buy brocades.

"Though I was eight months pregnant, I decided to go to the city to meet that person," she said.

The client gave her some sample patterns, and Tru began scrambling to complete the order without a workshop.

"Without a penny in my pocket, I ventured to a silk thread shop to look for materials. Luckily, the shop owner agreed to sell me the silk on credit," she says.

When she returned home, she hired people in the village to work on the order, but the quality of their products was highly variable: the client accepted only 40 per cent of the products.

"I was not disappointed and kept weaving brocades to sell. In 1990, I thought of starting a brocade shop in HCM City and decided to rent a small space at Tax Market," she says.

One day, a French couple came to her shop and told her, "These are just the kind of brocades we have been looking for."

Another day, two Japanese people came and bought all the products displayed in the shop, generously offering her VND100 million ($6,250).

"With the money in hand, I thought of expanding my business by buying brocades from other ethnic minority groups, particularly from the Thai," she says.

"In the year 2000, I set up the Inrahani Brocade Company and employed 200 women in My Nghiep Village," she says.

Tru then opened distribution agents in Da Lat, Da Nang and HCM City. With her business in motion, she started to send brocades to display at international fairs in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and other countries.

Old craft, new tricks

Tru’s brocades have earned a reputation near and far for their beautiful colours and high quality. In the past, brocades made by the Cham ethnic minority were mostly red, blue, white and yellow, but Tru has diversified the colours used in her products.

She won the "Golden Hands" award for her brocade products and received the Government title of "Artisan". Tru is as good with her words as with her hands: two of her poems won awards from the Kim Dong Publishing House in 2001 and 2002.

As word spreads about Tru’s products, she has been invited to attend traditional craft festivals in numerous countries. So far she has made visits abroad to more than 20 countries to demonstrate how her brocades are made.

At present, 80 per cent of Tru’s products are sold on the domestic market and the remainder is for export.

To Tru, business success means more than just profits: she is representing a rich cultural tradition. The Champa kingdom of the past was well-known for its sculpture, dancing and singing.

"I want to reflect these traditions in each product of the Inrahani company," Tru says. — VNS

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