Handloom and weaving are integral parts of Mizo customs since time immemorial. Women are sole weavers and this has traditionally provided them with economic independence and social empowerment.
A significant cog of Mizo handloom is Puan- the traditional wrap-around cloth worn by Mizo women. Five varieties of Puan- Puanchei, Tawllohpuan, Ngotekherh, Hmar Am and Pawndum – now enjoy GI tagging. GI Tag is critical in curbing unholy trading of outside traders while protecting the traditional artistry of women weavers.
In Mizoram, many women take to weaving of Puans as means of livelihood and many receive funding from the state’s handloom industry. Among these is Malsawmtluangi, a mother of four kids, who started her unique brand called Zo Weave. Today, 62 weavers from all parts of Mizoram work at Zo Weave.
Mizo traditional Puan has always been a big passion in Malsawmtluangi’s family. Young Malsawmtluangi used to make the local weavers customize her Puan into items suitable for wearing on special occasions like weddings and Christmas celebrations.
During these trips, the weavers showed interest in joining her full time and creating something unique which will bring diversity to the traditional attire. This triggered the idea of launching Zo Weave as a mutually beneficial business venture where her ideas and passion for Puan designs can be brought to life, while actually helping local women weavers, who are mostly stay-at-home mothers, earn a decent livelihood from the comfort of their home.
Speaking about bringing together weavers from different parts of Mizoram, Malsawmtluangi said, “I directly contacted some of the weavers and some I came to know through mutual friends. As Mizos are a small community, we bond easily. I spoke to the weavers and let them know that there is a helping hand if they face hardships.”
“We are all bonded by our love of Puan. The weavers are from various tribes under the Zo umbrella. This helps in producing Puans that highlight the diversity and rich ethnicities of the various tribes of the state,” she notified.
Asked about her plans for expansion, Malsawmtluangi said she is currently concentrating on quality rather than quantity. Her vision is to create a platform where women can support each other while attracting both national and international clientele, who genuinely appreciate the uniqueness of Mizo traditional handloom.