Wednesday 05 April 2017


The British Council in collaboration with Kilomet 109 present PHIÊU, a multi-media exhibition exploring the relationship between traditional crafts and contemporary design, at Hanoi Old Quarter Exchange Centre, 50 Dao Duy Tu, Hanoi  from13 April  to 3 May 2017. 

Knowing history makes for a stronger present. Innovation that takes into consideration traditional techniques tends to make for sophisticated solutions - in this way New can aid Old and Old can make New so much better. 

As is the case with Hanoi-based fashion brand Kilomet 109 and their new collection presented at PHIÊU, which loosely translates to Unburdened Journey. The exhibition is organised as part of the British Council’s New for Old initiative – a research residency that took place across Southeast Asia in December 2016, bringing together academics, artisans, and contemporary creative practitioners to find ways of looking backwards while moving forwards.

The idea behind the PHIÊU collection is to extract the essence of tried and tested knowledge and update it to fit contemporary design aesthetics and production. For Kilomet 109 and its founder and principal designer Thao Vu this has resulted in clothes that have woven into their fabric a continuation of traditional dyeing, weaving, and calendering techniques from four ethnic minority groups in North Vietnam who Thao has been working with for the last year.

Thao works closely with the artisans to both learn from and teach them in return, so positive improvements will be maintained even if she moves on in her creative process: “I don’t know how long I will work with the artisans and I need to make sure that it is sustainable, that they value their own culture, and that they feel confident in making new designs if one day I leave.” 

Along with British Council researchers, Thao sat down with local artisans to learn about their everyday practice, how the craft-making activities shape their lives, families, and the communities around them, and what they are hoping to gain from spending hours every day crafting the fabrics. Lo Thi Di, a Thai weaver is aware that patience and continuous support are required: “I really hope I can learn more about product and business. I want to create jobs for the people here by employing them. To do so I need to sell products well, I need to have more customers, and import-export partners to sell domestically first. Maybe in a few years' time my products will find their way to the export market.” 

The New for Old research team documented the work of eight artisans and the various aspects of fabric production. Questions around passing on indigenous know-how, embracing cultural identity, and keeping traditional craftsmanship alive were raised, and the results comprise PHIÊU. In an effort to do justice to the whole production process that leads up to the finished garments, and to highlight a variety of possible approaches to working with and being inspired by traditional craft, the exhibition includes Kilomet 109’s newest collection and installation pieces that showcase the dyeing, batik, and weaving techniques. The exhibition is complemented with work from other creative disciplines: black and white photography by Nic Shonfeld, who shot informal portraits of the artisans to showcase the people behind the work; illustrations and prints of the natural materials and tools used in the process by Claire Driscoll; a short documentary film made from field footage put together by Pham Mai Phuong; and a commissioned piece of music composed by Nguyen Xuan Son. 

In this way the exhibition highlights New for Old’s understanding that the promotion of craftsmanship, community, and commerce cannot be managed by just one person. Rather, the programme brings together contemporary designers, artisans, researchers, entrepreneurs, and consumers in an effort to revitalise traditional crafts and support local craft-makers, as to share an understanding that New and Old are mutually beneficial.


Visiting Information

Free admission 
13 April – 3 May, 2017 | Monday to Sunday, 10:00 – 19:00 
Opening reception: 18.00 – 21.00, 13 April
Hanoi Old Quarter Culture Exchange Centre
50 Dao Duy Tu

Notes to Editor

New for Old is a programme by the British Council aiming at providing new opportunities for female artisans and makers in the craft sector within Southeast Asia. In 2016, New for Old was implemented in Thailand, Burma, and Vietnam, bringing together researchers from the Royal College of Art London and local researchers and practitioners in two-week residencies in all three countries. 

The exhibition and research residencies form part of the British Council’s work in Culture and Development, exploring creative responses to development challenges worldwide. Our work in East Asia focuses on supporting female artisans and promoting traditional crafts and heritage for social inclusion and economic development in the region.

For more information please visit:

Culture & Development   
Architecture Design Fashion  
East Asia Arts  
Arts and Creative Industries in Vietnam   

For more information, please contact:

Hong Pham
Arts Manager
British Council 
20 Thuy Khue, Hanoi
T +84 1800 1299 ext 1932  

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications.

Founded in 1934, we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. The majority of our income is raised delivering a range of projects and contracts in English teaching and examinations, education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. Eighteen per cent of our funding is received from the UK government.

About Kilomet 109

Kilomet 109 was founded in 2012 by Hanoi fashion designer Thao Vu. Kilomet 109’s style is a creative mix between Western and Eastern culture. The brand smartly blends the simple, flattering silhouette and sophisticated colour palette with a touch of Vietnamese heritage to create designs that are innovative and culture oriented.