DESIGNERS LOOKING FOR something extraordinary to bridge the dampening effect of a world-wide economic miasma are turning to Africa for inspiration. Here they are finding an incredibly sophisticated visual tradition in exquisite materials and patterns, and in a way of wearing fashion, from clothing to jewelry, that is intense, dramatic, and, strangely, natural. Nothing here seems to be contrived. It just all works.
The major Italian fashion consortium, Max Mara Fashion Group, is employing local artisans in East Africa to make jewelry for its young brand, Max & Co. In other cases, jewelry designers in vital fashion centers like New York and Paris are forging ties with creative individuals and groups in East Africa for more innovative and expensive jewelry lines. The result is hoped to be a very new cultural fusion culminating in new, exciting impressions and design statements.
Hope and Prosperity
THE EMERGENCE OF THIS NEW TRIBAL design wave is a story that goes far beyond fashion itself. By developing community-sized fashion businesses across Africa, the global industry brings new hope and prosperity to an often impoverished, job-deficient area, changing lives and establishing a new economic stability. If it all continues to work and grow, it will be a win-win situation for everybody.
The new tribal expressions – which Christian Dior has labeled a “New Ethnicity” — are often beaded, natural, handmade, one-of-a-kind looking. Crocheted handbags with traditional African motifs. Jewelry made from wood, leather, bone and stone that fits amazingly well into the new “Green” movement. Earth-y stories. Styles that combine ancient and modern artistic forms and symbols. Timelessness.
YOU CAN LAUNCH YOUR OWN AFRICAN-INSPIRED COLLECTIONS WITH HANDSOME PRODUCTS LIKE THESE:
- Glass hearts and beading strung on black cord give a colorful African look to any outfit.
- Multiple row tribal bracelets in rich African prints.
And, for store or residential decoration, consider these fantastic home accessories, too:
- Glazed ceramic African wall mask with fabric and feather decoration.
- Wild Zulu wall mask lavishly trimmed in purple, gold, and green.
Fashion with an Attitude
An important thing to remember is that the new design movement is neither cheap nor commonplace. To the contrary, the new tribal look is strongly upper crust. It has class and, as Time Magazine noted in a recent issue, it has an “Attitude.” While it reflects the serene beauty of Africa, it also radiates with a very civilized Park Avenue élan.
To focus in on the new tribal look, think materials of every imaginable kind, hand-painted, appliquéd, hand-dyed, and more. Think bangles that run up the arm, dozens upon dozens, and scarves used for a hundred and one purposes. But, most especially think prints, oh…those indescribably magnificent African prints! Also think color! Reds and greens and blues of the most glorious tones.
–Add to all this big gold three-dimensional chokers, and long, multi-layers of gold beaded necklaces. Hats that wrap around the head with almost magical movement, rising high and tied with golden cords. Huge hoop earrings, wildly big rings, and discs of every conceivable sort. Exquisitely cut African stones, set into clothing and jewelry, handbags and scarves. Strap shoes embellished with beads and embroidery, snake skin handbags and long colorful tunics over blouses, under jackets, in a cacophony of different patterned layers. Fantastic!
This is fashion that literally takes your breath away. Even when toned down, and blended with western sensibilities, they remain intractably wild. And yet the patterns and designs are remarkably sophisticated and intellectually evolved.
YOU CAN GET THE LOOK, BUT IT TAKES COURAGE. YOU CAN’T DO THIS IN A HALF-HEARTED WAY. YOU HAVE TO MAKE A STRONG STATEMENT:
- Wood stretch bracelet goes beautifully with tribal prints, naturally! Pair it with prints featuring wild leopards, exotic flowers, and mixed sized geometrics.
- Turquoise necklace set with carved nugget pendant makes rich primitive statement.