Like the toiles that came before it, the jacket is made of lightweight unbleached muslin, a plain cotton weave I’m fond of for its newsprint sensibility. It’s a material meant to be thrown away on rough sketches, a step removed from that pristine whiteness which alienates emergent thought. The muslin, in this case, has been painted to mimic banana leaves, another ubiquitous material in subtropical and tropical cultures that was once used as writing surface. Banana leaves are used abundantly in cooking as an aromatic and as a vessel. The banana leaf jacket is not a finality, but another work in progress. It is unlined, its seams raw.
To make bánh chưng, wrap the leaves around sticky rice, mung bean, and pork. Bind them tightly in a grid of twine. You’ll sometimes see bánh chưng bound in lengths of plastic ribbon: polypropylene raffia, a cheap swap for the weaving fibers made from palm leaves. The pseudo-banana leaf panes of the jacket are framed by this shiny, overtly artificial raffia.
I made this jacket at a time when I had recently made the decision to stop eating meat, and a time when I was reflecting on what it meant for me to be Vietnamese. The jacket comes from the intersection of these identities, which I’ve come to accept as mutable.
(Photos by Emci)