Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 15 News List

Designers unveil new clothes for god statues 設計師為神衣注入新意

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Embroidered garments for god statues are to have their own seasonal collections, no different from fashion models on the catwalk. Taiwanese producers of these embroidered clothes, in the face of cheap imports from China, have gone the way of haute couture, incorporating crystals and laser technology in their designs, and entering the tourist industry, creating mini costume talismans as souvenirs of Taiwan.

The embroidery trade in Puzih, Chiayi, has a long history, and embroidered clothes for god statuary is something of a local specialty. Unfortunately, the industry, and in fact the culture that supports it, has fallen a bit by the wayside. The three brothers of the Chou family, which has been in the business for three generations, have over the past few years, tried to break out of the traditional industry and make a name for themselves for more creative religious clothing, under the Taiwan Shenfu Creative Embroidery brand. In so doing, they have breathed new life into the embroidery trade.

Chou Jang-ting, born in 1984, and his two brothers, are putting their youthful creativity to good use, not only re-inventing the divine statue clothing business but also finding out how they can tap into the lucrative tourist dollar. According to Chou, your basic made-in-Taiwan statue costume goes for about NT$500, but their Chinese counterparts will copy the design and turf them out for NT$100 a pop. The Chinese producers can undercut them on almost all of their products, by at least 50 percent. Going the branded route really is their only chance of keeping their heads above water.

In addition to developing new designs for clothes for god statues, the embroidered altar table covers and decoration used in inauguration ceremonies, and tapestries of the Eight Immortals, Shenfu Creative Embroidery has also released a new range of mini costumes that go for NT$150 each, small costumes roughly 5cm high that you can put your incense pouches and peace talismans inside, warding off evil and ensuring peace and happiness in your life. Different costumes have different meanings. Shen Nung Tati, the god of farmers, for example, will protect your business affairs, whilst the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra will help you in your studies. They have done pretty well, too, selling over 10,000 in two months. The most popular design at the moment is the mini Matsu, the sea goddess, which tourists from Japan, Singapore and China are buying as souvenirs of Taiwan.

But the three brothers have other plans, too. Recently Shenfu has opened a tourist center in the former Suantou Sugar factory in Chiayi, with visual and textual introductions to the background and production process of the embroidered costumes. Visitors can also wear some of these costumes and have their photos taken with them on, or even try their own hand at a bit of DIY, for the price of NT$100.

According to Jang-ting, this year the company’s goal is to promote lesser known gods so, in addition to Guanyin and Matsu, who most people are familiar with, they also want to include General Qianliyan, who can see for a thousand miles, and General Shunfenger, known for his powerful hearing. They also want to expand the market of all-year round designs to incorporate seasonal differences, and hold a fashion show to launch new designs to get people interested.

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