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The Lahu


The history of the Lahu people stretches over 4,500 years; originating from Tibet and south-western China, the Lahu people migrated towards Myanmar (Burma) and northern Thailand before spreading across northern parts of Laos and Vietnam. 

There are many sub-groups that have formed within the Lahu hilltribe - Black Lahu, Red Lahu, Yellow Lahu, White Lahu, Pakew Lahu, Pakaew Lahu, Hega Lahu, Laba Lahu, Bala Lahu etc – all distinguished by variations in their traditional garments.

The largest group of Lahu people in Thailand is the Red Lahu. Like the Black and Yellow Lahu groups, they believe in ancestor spirits.

Traditionally, the Lahu way of life is simple and well-organised: they live as farmers, harvesting rice and corn for family consumption. Gender equality is deeply rooted within Lahu culture, with Lahu people perhaps being one of the most equitable groups of people in the world.  


Traditional Lahu Dress generally starts with a Black or Blue simple cotton garment, whether it be a shirt, skirt or jacket, then embellished by colourful decorative strips of embroidery and applique, detailed with small silver balls and pressed metal decorations.

A traditional Lahu Woman's dress consists of a long-sleeve, calf-length shirt over a shorter waist-length shirt, with a long, angle-length skirt. Variations of these garments can be found within the different Lahu sub-groups, although skirt designs remain the same. A Lahu woman's dress is typically more highly and intricately decorated than a Lahu man's.

A Lahu man's dress is the same regardless of their sub-group and consists of a long-sleeve shirt with sleeves and collar edged with layers of colourful embroidered fabrics, and long pants decorated with black green and blue hand-embroidered details.

The Lahu are also known for their silver ornamental jewellery which further illustrates the beauty of their unique hilltribe identity, such as earrings, necklaces, belts, and bracelets.

In the past, Lahu people have woven their own clothes. Today, the traditional Lahu weaving techniques are only used for small accessories such as bags, satchels or sashes. The Lahu weave using a “back-strap” loom, which loops around the back of the weaver, with the warp pulled tight by their feet or a bamboo frame, and the weft woven within the length of weave stretched in front of their body.
Within the eBannok range the traditional Lahu weave is featured in many of our bag, accessory and clothing ranges.

eBannok purchases lengths of Lahu weave from remote communities within the Chiang Rai Province. This provides a direct source of income to these communities who rely on the limited trade of goods between villages, and who struggle to bring their products to market due to their remote locations. The fair and sustainable income generated by eBannok's support ensures their weaving traditions continue as a valuable and worthwhile past-time for Lahu women.



The Lahu Hilltribe