It’s fitting that our first collection is the Sapa Collection, as it’s our signature and most cherished collection from Rafi Nova. This collection represents so many things both in our personal life as well as in the world around us. In fact, it is the bright, colorful “Sapa” textile that inspired us to start Rafi Nova.
In 2017, we were living and working in Vietnam with our then 18 month old twins, Noa and Eyva. While we went on many adventures around Vietnam, our trip to Sapa in Northern Vietnam was one of our favorites. Just getting there involved a 2.5 hour plane ride, an 8-hour overnight train and a 2 hour bus-ride over mountainous terrain. We hiked through rice terraces, motorbiked through the mountains and met with ethnic minorities from the surrounding villages at the local Boc Ha market.
It was at this market that we bought 2 kids backpacks, a small elephant and a traditional baby carrier, featuring handmade textiles from the Flower Hmong women, one of Vietnam’s 54 Ethnic Minorities.
A few years (and another set of twins) later, after working in bag manufacturing for some time and traveling around the world with a young family, we decided it was time to design our own backpack and our first thought was to incorporate the beautiful textiles we found in Sapa.And so, we had an aspiration: how do we incorporate these bright textiles onto modern products that our friends and family in the USA would buy and how do we support these ethnic women so that their beautiful artform can live on.
The first thing we did was call the eco-lodge we stayed at in Sapa and asked if they could help send us some sample fabrics from the local market, so we could use them on our prototypes. They helped to connect us to one of the Hmong ladies and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Over the past 6 months, we were able to purchase 40 Flower Hmong skirts (each is 4-5 meters) and then we washed them, pressed them, cut them and incorporated them into our Supernova Backpack, Single Pouch and Cross-Body bag. We believe in preserving traditions and each textile from our Collections have lived a full life before being incorporated into your Rafi Nova piece.
About the Flower Hmong
The Flower Hmong are known for their Color Clashing, Pattern Loving, Bead Encrusted clothing. They are a sub-group of the Hmong people, the largest of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. Each subgroup has their own dialect, cultural customs, dress and handmade textiles. Amongst other things, Hmong women are known as exceptional craftswoman and outside of their work in the fields, they spend much of their day doing embroidering for their clothing. The patterns are passed down from generation to generation and retained by memory alone. Each pattern is unique and distinctive to where the artisan lives and the materials available to them at the time the fabric was crafted.
Here’s some of the meanings of the different designs found in your textile:
While all of the textiles that we’ve personally purchased for our Rafi Nova products hold great meaning and are near and dear to us, it’s the Sapa Collection that is our most cherished. The bright colors and patterns make us feel happy and empower us to take new adventures (sometimes to the mountains of Vietnam and sometimes to the mountains of New England). We hope that they do the same for you.