At a sideways glance, Yo Ya May seems less a textile shop than a museum. Sitting on the first floor of Rangoon’s bustling Bogyoke Market, cofounders Khun Shwe and her husband Kyin Lam Mang clearly feel blessed by their success, and in the course of their lives become the city’s most eager advocates for traditional Chin craft.
Their store is an undeniable labor of love.
“My children tell me, ‘you are really absorbed in this job. Your soul will stay circling around the shop after you die,’” Khun Shwe told The Irrawaddy.
Founded in the 1990s, Yo Ya May has been based at the tourist hotspot since 2003, garnering praise from Lonely Planet and enjoying the dividend from the tourist boom of recent years.
Both 56-year-old Khun Shwe and her husband hail from Tedim Township in northern Chin State, and walking into their store is a window into their world. Sitting by hand-woven dresses and fabrics are photos of women in tribal dress and a library’s worth of books on ethnic weaving styles, techniques and fashions. For the women behind Yo Ya May’s wares, there are no worthier ambassadors than the store’s owners.
“We started this as a family business,” Khun Shwe said. “We continued with pride because with our work we are able to support Chin women as well.”
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