This week’s topic is about exoticism. Fashion is the perfect playground to explore exoticism through different cultures. I want you to come with me on a trip through our five continents. Each continent will be focus on a specific traditional item from a specific region of this continent.
Let’s start our trip in Asia. Japan is one of the most traditionalist country in the world. Japanese have the unbelievable talent to mix their traditional culture with the growing economy and westernization of their country. The Kimono (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2101.html) is one of the most emblematic symbols of the it’s culture. Originally the word kimono means “to wear something”. It is basically a robe made of two T-shaped pieces of fabric and wrapped around the body with a special belt that also happens to be made of fabrics. Kimonos are mainly made of silk and the price can range from being affordable to more than thousands for the very rare silks. It was a daily attire for men and women but now it is less common to see it in the streets even though it still exists. The kimono is still worn during important celebrations. It has been popularized mainly through the image of geishas in the popular cultures. This tradition still has an influence on current figures in the fashion world. Dries Van Noten got inspired a few times by the prints on the kimonos and the eccentric Anna Dello Russo does not hesitate to wear it in the street the light up these rainy days!
More in the west, Scotland has also its emblem in fashion. Tartan, this pattern has a long and tumultuous history. Full of meaning, it appears at the beginning of the 18th Century in Scotland. Originally the pattern was supposed to represent the different parts of Scotland. It is in the middle of the 19th century that the tartan became associated with the many clans which composed the Scottish land. The original tartan is a checked pattern made of mainly two different colors, the most famous ones are black and red. Mainly made of Scottish wool, the fabric is weaved in check which make the tartan so recognizable. The Royal family of the UK participated in the spread of this typical pattern worldwide. The tartan is nowadays used in the fashion industry from socks, kilts to capes and scarfs. Dolce and Gabbana and Vivienne Westwood have been using tartan in their collections quite often as, according to how you use it, it can give a punkish or folkish vibe to your outfit. If you are looking for a warm handcrafted scarf or plaid made of 100% Scottish wool, I personally recommend you the Royal family’s supplier of tartan, Kinloch Anderson (http://www.kinlochanderson.com/).
Down south, to the wonderful continent of Africa! The African fabrics are so colorful and full of joy that just by looking at them you feel happy and full of positive energy. The origin of these textiles are blurry. Some say that it has been part of the African culture for centuries and others prone a more recent history. It would be coming from the colonial history between the dutch empire and the colonies in Africa. But wherever it is actually from, these patterns have been use by the African community as a source of cultural heritage and identification throughout the world. The different types of textiles represent the social classes as well as the occasions they are worn at. They can be worn be the men or by women. African women have a certain talent in creating their outfits for every single occasions. It is part of their important culture of beauty and coquetry. Solange Knowles might be the perfect ambassador of the African pattern culture! The designer Christopher Bailey used these prints for the Burberry Prorsum spring summer 2012 collection and it was a total success (see Anna Wintour’s picture below).
Across the Atlantic ocean is the Americas. The native Americans are one of the oldest culture that still exists today. When I come to think of this culture it always reminds me of the moccasins, or minnetonkas. This type of shoes has always been used by the Indians of north america. Today it is mostly seen as something that you would wear as sleepers inside your house. But indeed it was made to be worn outside in the wilderness of the plains. Traditionally made of deer skin, they are really flexible and robust shoes. The specialty of these shoes is the sensation of feeling the ground through the flexible sole and at the same time having a solid outside shoe. The color is usually brown as the natural color of the deer skin but you can find modern versions full of different colors and prints. The moccasins came back in the world of fashion mainly through Isabel Marrant a few years ago.