Asian-African Cultural Exchange in Fashion Design

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Fashion Brand “Lihiya” combines Swaziland and Taiwan’s aboriginal traditions to promote stories of different culture

August 18th, 2016

Min-ni Wu, CD News, CD News

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“When you buy a dress, you get a story—you can go anywhere in the world and learn about what the totems mean,” said Dumile, the Swaziland-born designer who grows her cross-cultural fashion brand in Taiwan. “Lihiya” is a brand more than styles, it tells the stories of two different cultures, helping women and disadvantaged groups living in remote areas to gain a better livelihood.

Dumile moved from Swaziland to Taiwan with her father 16 years ago. After she went into the aboriginal tribe in the mountains of Taitung for research, she realized that the tribe was struggling with instability. They were facing difficulties trying to preserve their language and culture as well. The brand “Lihiya” was thus born to “fix the problem.”

Lihiya hopes to create sustainable jobs for disadvantaged groups. Dumile, together with her sister Tivamile, buy materials they need from remote aboriginal communities with fair trades. In addition, they work with women from the Rukai and Amis tribes in Taiwan during the collaborative production process, helping them to develop their creative mind for design and useful skills. The unique techniques and knowledge they have about aboriginal traditions enhance the designs on the contrary.

Lihiya, meaning comprehensive and inclusive in Swazi, aims to promote people’s understanding of different cultures through clothing. The designs are a combination of Swazi traditional fabrics, Taiwanese aboriginal traditional totems and modern styles. Another important concept behind the brand is “one size fits all”. People with different body shapes can wear the clothing. Dumile said that this is to break the Taiwanese stereotype of ideal body shape, which views skinny as the only standard for beauty.

“We hope to become cultural-diplomats to promote cross-cultural understanding,” as Dumile stated, Lihiya will continue working to present the beauty of culture exchange to the world.


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