September, the Month of Fashion! Every year many famous and upcoming designers show their new collections on the catwalks of Milan, Paris and Amsterdam. It’s the month in which every fashion-loving magazine maker (including online), influencer, stylist, model, trend watcher and designer can be found on the red carpet. But not just in the usual cities! What about Lagos, Casablanca and Tbilisi, for example? The Fashion Weeks haven’t been an exclusively European-American affair for a long time –this World Story will tell you more.
All over the world
September is the month for magazines like Vogue (the Dutch version recently stopped publication), Elle and other well-known titles. Extra thick issues with full-page pictures: the new fashion season has begun! But it’s not only European and American magazines and catwalks that are showing their readers and visitors what the fashion scene will look like in the autumn. Vogue Arabia, Vogue México and Elle China are too.
Western magazines for young people, such as Dazed and Confused and I-D-Vice, show shoots from all over the world and some of these titles also appear in countries like Nigeria. Likewise The Native Magazine, the ultra-hip Nigerian mag, is now available in London, Paris and New York, and many other fashion cities.
The image above and in the header shows the magnificent creation of the Dutch-Moroccan fashion designer and artist Karim Adduchi. His creation from the 'She has 99 names' collection positively shines in Vogue Arabia of January 2020. It is an ode to Berber women, worn by the Moroccan model Meryem Titila Oulhaj and photographed by Elizaveta Porodina. This dress is made from old hand-woven carpets and was purchased in 2018 by the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National Museum of World Cultures). TM 7155-1
What about Fiji, Hyderabad and Tbilisi
Although the magazines mentioned above, the Dutch versions too, still mainly feature the big names who show in Paris, Milan, London and New York, there are many other extremely interesting, pioneering fashion weeks. More than 110 Fashion Weeks are held worldwide!
In the Netherlands alone we have the Amsterdam Fashion Week, the Rotterdam Green Fashion Week, Arnhem Fashion Week, etc. There’s also a Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week and an Africa Fashion Week, and in the past a Caribbean section in the Amsterdam Fashion Week. The number of Fashion Weeks here is mind boggling.
In Nigeria, mentioned earlier, a fashion week has been held in the capital Lagos since 2011, and in Bogota, Sao Paolo, Jakarta, Fiji, Hyderabad, Seoul, Panama, Tbilisi, Casablanca too. Each one is a thriving fashion scene. Exciting things happen there. Things which we here in the Netherlands generally know very little about. That’s a great shame of course. But luckily that will no longer apply to you after reading this World Story!
Fashion Week – Jakarta 2017. Ensemble on the right exhibited in Kruispunt R’dam expo in the Wereldmuseum. Ensemble in batik, shibori and other material from the Nurzahra label by Windri Widiesta Dhari, 2017. Wereldmuseum collection WM-77428. Image courtesy of Getty Images
This means that there is a growing awareness of other stories about fashion. The history of fashion is mainly based on western fashion, which according to most academics originated around the 14th century in Europe.
Other fashions, like we see in our museums and the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen collection, were certainly not part of this. During and after the colonial period, from the end of the 18th century, a ‘Western’ vision on fashion, a one-sided vision originated. This saw the clothing of the oppressors as fashion. The clothing of the colonized people was reduced to traditional dress or costume.
The traditional Surinamese koto, worn here by a kotomisi, was and is part of the history of fashion. C. 1910. TM-5194-2a/f .
This implies that this clothing is unchangeable and strictly conforms to a general style; it is outdated and certainly not fashion. The designers were not even noted, not to mention celebrated, as in Europe later. In museums the clothes weren’t displayed on mannequins but often pinned flat on a panel so that museum visitors could look closely and study them. The human body that belonged in the clothes was not visible, like the colonial history and its continuing importance until recently.
Man’s shirt, Guatemala. RV-5969-21
An open view
If we look at the clothing stored in our museums of world cultures with different eyes, we can revise and enrich the history of fashion with different knowledge and insights. Perhaps it is time for ‘the West’ to embrace this in its insatiable search for renewal and creativity. After all, isn’t that what fashion is about? But we are not saying that designers should start randomly dabbling in the heritage and creativity of other cultures. In enough examples in today’s fashion world, inspiration seems more like cultural appropriation. The Things That Matter exhibition in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam has examples.
That exhibition includes a magnificent example of mutual inspiration: the Wafrica Kimono from the collection by Cameroonian designer Serge Mouangue made from a Vlisco Wax print, a Dutch company that has been selling fabrics for more than a hundred years in West Africa.
Vlisco’s fabrics play an important role in West African culture and are closely associated with an African identity. This kimono provokes discussion on authenticity, intercultural exchange and authorship. It gives an impression of Dutch industrial design and the Dutch-African trading contacts but these fabrics (and cheaper imitations) determine the street scene of large parts of West and Central Africa.
Here and now
Clothing from all round the world is stored in our depositories; clothing made with care, often in a sustainable way and from exceptional materials, thus haute couture. Fortunately many young designers realize this and look at the materials and techniques from the past from different areas. To learn something and to develop new forms.
They are careful with this inspiration, as it is important to recognize the origin of this new knowledge. Attention is paid to the technique and material but also to their cultural meaning for the original cultures. This does not mean that fashion from other cultures only inspires; it is a creative sector in itself that really does not need the recognition of the entire West.
From left to right, top down:
- Jacket, skirt and top ensemble by Hanae Mori – 1960s/70s collection - TM 7003-1a/d
- Party gown made from bark (pre 1899) - Tahiti - RV 1229-193
- Jacket for married women from the Khalkha culture in Northwest Mongolia (pre 1991), TM 5405-1
- Skirt by Manish Arora - TM 6291-1
- Amautik made by Martha Tickie (Tickiq), an Inuit designer from Nunavut, Canada - TM 7101-1
- Dress by Ebru Durmaz - 2017 collection - WM 77425