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In a unique blend of conservation and tourism, Bhutan’s Department of Tourism and the Royal Textile Academy (RTA)   have announced the ‘Inspired by Birds and Butterflies of Bhutan’ initiative. This effort aims to enhance tourism by creating and celebrating Bhutanese textile art that features newly designed motifs depicting the nation’s endangered wildlife.

This groundbreaking project, driven by the Department of Tourism’s GEF/UNDP supported Ecotourism Project’s mission ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into Tourism Sector in Bhutan’, engages local fashion designers and weavers from the eastern rural locales of Lhuentse, Trashigang, and Pemagatshel.

For the first time in Bhutan, a synergy between contemporary design sensibilities and age-old weaving techniques has been formed. A ten-day comprehensive training program was led by RTA in natural dyeing methods and the creation of textile designs inspired by Bhutan’s ecological diversity. These designs pay homage to species such as the nation’s iconic butterflies, hornbills, white-bellied herons, elephants, and black-necked cranes.

The initiative’s flagship event, the ‘Khoma Fashion Show,’ displayed these exquisite weavings and fresh motifs conceived by designers, all inspired by Bhutan’s indigenous birds, butterflies, and at-risk species. The culmination of this project was a distinguished fashion show at the RTA, where these final pieces were proudly presented.

Dorji Dhradhul, the Director General of Bhutan’s Department of Tourism, said, “Textiles hold a deep-seated place in Bhutanese heritage, and through this initiative, we aim to globally promote Bhutan by intertwining our textile legacy with tourism. We also seek to raise awareness about Bhutan’s precious biodiversity and the stories of our endangered species interlaced within our textiles. We are eager to motivate our weavers and designers to produce high-value, naturally dyed textiles that resonate globally, while preserving our culture and identity.”

Pema Chhoden Wangchuk, the RTA’s Chief Curator, reflected on the significance of natural dyes, “For generations, natural dyes have been pivotal, not just for their beauty but also for their environmental advantages. Reviving this tradition reaffirms our commitment to sustainable and environmentally conscious living, which is at the heart of our culture.”

 The ‘Inspired by Birds and Butterflies of Bhutan’ project, spearheaded by the Department of Tourism represents a collaborative fusion of efforts by the RTA. The project is supported by the Department of Tourism, Royal Textile Academy, and the William Geiger Family Foundation Inc., aligning with the Weaving into the Future Program (WFP).

As part of this project, an exhibition and sale titled “Metamorphosis-inspired by birds and butterflies of Bhutan” is on display at the RTA Gallery, from November 6, 2023 to January 6, 2024. Everyone is welcome to visit the exhibition to enjoy the vibrant colors, intricate details, and unique perspectives of the artwork.