Furthermore, the domestic silk industry has also not caught up with the times, and has failed to come up with new designs and products to meet the needs of a globalised world.
Poor marketing, weak brand promotion and dull designs are major obstacles preventing the expansion of Vietnamese silk in world markets, they added.
Experts, traders and craftsmen voiced their opinions at a seminar held under the auspices of the International Silk and Brocade Festival in Hoi An city.
Eighty local artisans from 12 craft villages in Vietnam as well as representatives from other Asian countries discussed ways to promote and preserve the silk trade, including boosting exchanges between countries.
“The festival is an opportunity for members of the International Silk Association to review current developments in the traditional trade, and map out future ways for handmade silk in the context of climate change and rapid urbanisation,” said Le Thai Vu, Chairman of the Quang Nam Silk Company.
Fei Jianming, General Secretary of the International Silk Association, said the festival honoured the silk trade in Hoi An and the world.
“Hoi An silk has contributed greatly to the development of silk in the world. Craftsmen from Vietnam and other countries in the region will take this opportunity to share views on how to promote the trade,” Jianming said.
Jianming, who is also Director of the Hangzhou Silk Culture and Brand Research Centre, said silk villages from Vietnam should join fairs in China for promoting their products.
Fumio Kato, a project leader with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Minamibousou city, Japan, said: “Hoi An silk and Vietnam should build a modern silk trade with unique value.
“Silk products must be designed for daily use in the context of rapid globalisation,” Kato told Viet Nam News.
“Vietnam’s silk should show the world how special it is. You must preserve your silk tradition with new, usable designs for modern days,” he said, adding Vietnam and Hoi An have to perfect every process of silk making in a meticulous manner.
A good living
Kato also warned that craftsmen need to make a good living from silk production if the country does not want the traditional trade to disappear soon.
He said the International Labour Organisation (ILO), UNESCO and JICA have supported Hoi An in mapping a sustainable way for the future of the traditional trade.
He warned against producing poor quality silk in the pursuit of profit, saying Vietnam must persuade picky customers about the real value of traditional silk.
Luong Thanh Hanh, 30, who revived a traditional silk village in Thai Binh province three years ago, said businesses have yet to support craftsmen with marketing and promotion at world trade fairs.
She said Nam Cao village – known for its handmade tussore, has recovered using new production and marketing methods.
“Customers prefer handmade and chemical-free tussore,” Hạnh said.
She said more than 1,000 tussore towels and scarves were being shipped to Japan each month, excluding thousands of products sold at domestic shops.
Ly Thi Diem Hong of the Van Giao Silk village populated by the Khmer ethnic community in An Giang province, said the village co-operative has been struggling to design marketable products and sell them.
She said their designs were still limited to Buddhist motifs, pagodas, elephants and the Buddha, with scarves and sarongs being the most popular products.
The silk trade in Quang Nam developed during the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty. It was influenced by the Cham people in the coastal central region.
Le Thai Vu, general director of the Quang Nam Silk Company, successfully re-discovered the mulberry plant that the Cham had used during an expedition in Que Son district in 2012, after Japanese cultural researchers had failed in their efforts to find the plant.
The ongoing festival also presents the creations of French fashion designers, major Chinese fashion houses and famous silk villages of Vietnam.