Our Silk

In Vietnam before 1975, the word Tan Chau Silk immediately reminded people of the luxurious silk that was once made only for the royal families. Invented around 1908 during the French colonization, Tan Chau Silk was known for being one-of-a-kind, exceptionally durable, long-lasting and a symbol of wealth. 

It is exceptionally breathable and absorbent. It keeps you warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. It does not carry odors even after long and frequent wears. It does not require professional dry-cleaning or steaming. It is one of the most wrinkle-resistant of all natural fabrics.

Tan Chau's specialty, its unique black silk, is naturally dyed with the ultra-tannic mặc nưa (diospyros mollis) fruit, a wild medicinal fruit grown in a small area of the Mekong Delta region of Southeast Asia. Mặc nưa is the only natural true black dye in the world. 

Natural silk dyed with mặc nưa does not retain body odor, which means it does not require washing between wears. Because mặc nưa is a natural antibiotic, locals use it to treat wounds and cuts. As a dye for our silk, its anti-bacterial and antioxidant qualities make it an exceptional fabric for the skin, especially acne-prone skin type.  
While most well-known for the unique Imperial Silk (also called Lacquer Silk by some), our artisans also make two other types of silk that are just as impressive: Midnight Silk and Colored Silk.  

Imperial Silk is hand-woven from the finest silk threads while Midnight Silk is hand-woven from the less fine silk threads using a different technique. Both are organically dyed black with mặc nưa.

These silks are both unlike any other silk you have ever touched. In addition to the special weaving techniques that gives them their unique textures and finishes, the incredibly high tannin content in mặc nưa fruit, in combination with the traditional practice of immersing the fabric in the mặc nưa dye bath and drying it daily in the sun more than 100 times over a period of 40 to 45 days gives the silks their unique glossiness, thickness, and deep black color.
Mặc nưa fruit turns from green to black overnight after being picked from the tree. Not only does the color not fade with use, it continues to deepen over time. Silks dyed with mặc nưa are some of a few fabrics that get better with age and can be passed on to the next generation. 
Our Colored Silk is hand-woven from the finest silk threads and dyed with local leaves and tree bark. As a result, the colors are more subtle and are close to the colors of nature, as opposed to the vibrant colors derived from chemicals. As with nature, our colored silk is seasonal so the available colors vary throughout the year. 
YEM's silk is 100% made by our "silk master,"  Mr. Tri, his wife Thy and a few local employees who have been with the family business for decades.

Tri's family is the only family left still making silk the traditional way, from start to finish. Tri's father, 92-year-old Mr. Long, implored to him, "no matter what, please don't give up on the family business until the day I die."

Most of Tan Chau village gave up on the craft because of competition from much cheaper synthetic silk made by big factories and imported from other countries. In addition, the population of mặc nưa trees keeps diminishing as they are replaced by food crops that are more profitable and easier to manipulate (the mặc nưa tree cannot tolerate chemical sprays, so it is inherently "organic").

Over a home-cooked dinner by his wife, Tri said to me "my only wish is to have an acre of land to grow mặc nưa."