The Akha people are found in Northern parts of Laos, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and China. Their population in Laos is estimated just over 100,000. The Akha speak a Sino-Tibetan language and are believed to have originated in China and moved to Laos early in the 19th Century.
Our project with these Akha villages, around Muang Sing in Luang Namtha, started in 2010. At the request of the Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) we were invited to design a product development training programme. Our team looked at the traditional headdress of the Akha women and was inspired by the silver discs that embellish the hats. Akha women are successful cotton farmers, weavers and indigo dyers. The products co-developed with these communities reflect their traditional way of dress whilst also utilising their traditional skills. Instead of silver disks upcycling pieces of aluminium cans are used in the products .