Who Made My Clothes?

For Fashion Revolution Week, we interview two artisans in our Textiles Atelier in Yangon, Jannie and Wai Mar Hnin

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Wai Mar Hnin at work in the atelier

We opened our Textiles Atelier in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2019. Since then, our team of talented artisans have produced beautiful custom-made clothing, from dresses to jackets, using traditional handwoven textiles from Chin State, Mandalay, Kachin State and Northern Rakhine. Here, to celebrate Fashion Revolution Week, two of our team answer the question: Who Made My Clothes?

Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Jannie: My name is Jannie. I am Turquoise Mountain Myanmar’s Textile Production Officer as well as a fashion designer, founder and creative director of my own brand called Leslion. I live and work in Yangon, Myanmar. As Textile Production Officer I work closely with the textiles team at Turquoise Mountain’s Textiles Atelier in Yangon’s China Town.

Wai Mar Hnin: My name is Wai Mar Hnin. My background is in the garment industry – I worked as a seamstress for many years. Afterwards, I joined my teacher’s garment studio working as a lead seamstress for eight years. Later, I opened a shop with my sister and I worked from home as a tailor, after taking short courses in pattern making and sewing. At the same time, I also worked at an NGO teaching children. I live in Hlegu, Myanmar. I work as a lead seamstress at Turquoise Mountain’s Textiles Atelier in Yangon.

Jannie I made your clothes

Jannie, our Textile Production Officer

What does your job entail?

Jannie: My primary job is to support the Turquoise Mountain Textiles Atelier and supervise textile production – from receipt of the fabrics to the final product - by working closely with everyone from the team. I am also responsible for working with clients at this stage of production. Most of our clients are designers and I work closely with them to make the process a rewarding one for both of us – for me this means making their designs come to life, meeting high quality standards and delivering the finished pieces on time. Every outfit is carefully handled and made with love.

I also work with both the clients and the seamstresses to ensure clear communication from both sides and accurate design translation. Finally, I work as a brand ambassador for Turquoise Mountain, introducing local handmade textile products to the market by telling the story behind each product and assisting with sales.

Jannie with French designer Julie 2

Jannie collaborating with a designer client

Wai Mar Hnin: I oversee all the cutting and sewing processes from beginning to end. I lead the other team members at the Atelier, guiding them step-by-step, from cutting to sewing. Before starting to make the clothes, I check the fabrics to make sure there is no damage or defects. If the client wants a custom piece, I am also responsible for taking detailed measurements, drafting the patterns, and translating the design into what the client wants. Before starting actual production - cutting and sewing - I am also responsible for making sure we have the right accessories and materials.

Once we have everything ready, we cut the fabrics and begin the next step - sewing. During the sewing stage, I follow the Textile Production Officer’s instructions to avoid making mistakes and to produce high-quality stitching, whilst also ensuring the items can be delivered on time. I work closely with my team, teaching them sewing techniques to help them to avoid mistakes.

After sewing, I check the product finishing, iron the pieces flat and hang them up for the quality control process, overseen by the Textiles Production Officer. I am also responsible for recording the production time and tracking the materials used for each outfit, so that we can calculate the price and our average lead-time.

Ma Wai Mar

Wai Mar Hnin, lead seamstress at the Turquoise Mountain Textiles Atelier

What part of the job do you enjoy most?

Jannie: Firstly, I learn a lot working with Turquoise Mountain and am exposed to experiences that are new to me. For example, I have learned a lot about costing, working with Microsoft Excel to plan and manage production and using other software programmes in my job. As a designer, I have never had a chance to delve deep into those areas of the textiles business. With Turquoise Mountain, I have the opportunity to learn about every aspect of textile production.

Secondly, when I see our precious clothes on the runway, the result of many hours of hard work, I am thrilled - seeing the end result and people’s appreciation for it means a lot to me, as well as to my team. I am also happy for the client because their designs have come to life and are shown to a lot of people. As a designer, I understand how the client feels, and this is a part that I enjoy.

Finally, I am currently enjoying designing Turquoise Mountain Myanmar’s first homeware collection. It is an opportunity for me to get to know more about Myanmar traditional textiles, patterns, motifs, weaving techniques from different regions, and most importantly: the story behind the beautiful artworks that artisans create.

Wai Mar Hnin: The part that I like the most is drafting and making the patterns. Since I was a young girl, I have enjoyed thinking up designs and creating them. Now, when I am working with my clients, they sometimes ask me to create a design for them, and when I see that they like it and wear my creation, I feel very proud and happy. That’s why I enjoy working in the fashion industry. I am also thrilled to be part of the Turquoise Mountain team, as I enjoy working with my colleagues.

Textiles Atelier 1

The Turquoise Mountain Textiles Atelier in Yangon

What are the main challenges you are facing right now?

Jannie: There are always challenges in creating textiles for different clients, but we try to meet the client's needs in the best way we can. The biggest problem we are facing right now is the impact of the coronavirus. Some clients have cancelled orders, the fabric shop is closed and it is difficult to buy accessories or materials that we need. But even through this, we are all learning together, and we are improving all the time.

Wai Mar Hnin: There are lots of challenges in a textiles atelier, such as receiving fabrics late or working with incorrect measurements. These can make the production time longer than usual or mean we have to fix items multiple times. Plus, I still have a lot to learn and I feel I can still improve in a lot of ways.

What should the people who wear your clothes know about you?

Jannie: I would like people to know that our clothes are preserving local Myanmar traditions, they are sustainable, they are long-lasting, and they are carefully made with love and passion. I want our clothes to make people happy and for people to always want to wear our items - to use them, love them, and take care of them.

Wai Mar Hnin: I would like them to know that I make their clothes with care and love from start to finish. I also want them to feel comfortable and confident while wearing them.

If you have any questions for us, the artisans, or if you're a designer and would like to work with our atelier, get in touch at myanmar@turquoisemountain.org.