By Bianca Alexander, Esq.
In a society where looking like everybody else and “fitting in” is often embraced over stepping out as an individual, it’s refreshing to see a unique fashion trend dominating the Paris, Milan and New York runways: tribal style. From ethnic fabrics to exotic prints, almost every designer has incorporated aspects of this look into their current lines.
According to Vogue, “tribal” is a convenient catch-all term for a new look that encompasses anything pre-industrial, aboriginal, or indigenous. Despite the buzz, there’s really nothing new about it. Historically, ethnic styles influenced Western mode for centuries, but became more prominent beginning in the 20th century. Then, the culture of colonization made traditional ethnic dress obsolete, leaving a cultural void. Its resurgence today represents a push back against our over-industrialized, “melting pot” society, where farming, manufacturing, and even human life are relegated to the assembly line in search of the “hot dog and apple pie” American dream.
The saturation of 24/7 technology, computers, PDAs and social media give us the tools to consume more, faster. Despite the gains technology has created for mankind, it’s also created a disconnection from our truest essence. As a result, our Spirits crave something with more soul substance--something more permanent, authentic and fulfilling. Like most art forms, fashion is a visible symbol of the subconscious, unmet cravings and aspirations of our time. It’s a relatively risk-free, non-verbal step towards expressing deep-seated emotions and desires. Consequently, wearing indigenous fashion may allow us to return to a simpler, more primitive time where community and nature mattered more than how quickly and how much we consumed. By donning these sacred fabrics and symbols, we may once again be able to navigate and embrace our place in history, society and the world at large.Tribal Style Basics
Tribal style embodies an ethnic journey across multiple continents, textures and tones. A few defining characteristics:
1. Exotic International Fabrics
. Many indigenous peoples wore special fabric to denote geographic origin, status and position in the tribe. On the runways, designers are mixing ethnic textiles like African Batik and Kente cloth prints, Indonesian Ikat fabrics, Indian Saris, and Chinese dragon silks with contemporary, Western silhouettes.
2. Indigenous Accessories
. These looks are often adorned with chunky necklaces, wood and bone earrings and bracelets and native beadwork. Colorful turbans, gladiator sandals, Eskimo boots and bohemian head-wraps ground the look.
3. Global Safari Chic
: Slim & sexy cargo pants, out-of-Africa jackets, harem pants and military uniforms evoke the neutrality and comfort needed to travel the world in style for the adventure of a lifetime.
4. Animal Prints
. In pre-historic times, our connection with animals was more immediate—which is why leopard will never go out of style! Cheetah, zebra and giraffe prints offer fresh takes on an old favorite.
5. Hair Statement
. It’s almost impossible to walk down a city street without seeing a Native American Mohawk, Afro, or dreds.Your guide to rocking tribal style
If these looks feel a little over the top, don’t be afraid to modify to your own personal style. Ultimately, the goal of fashion is to express your authentic self, so it needs to work for you. If your wardrobe is mostly shades of gray, incorporate a pop of tribal color with a neutral top or bottom. At the office, sport heels with a cargo jacket over a blouse and jeans, slacks, or skirt. For a night on the town, dress up traditional fabrics with metallic shoes and accessories. No need to go on a shopping spree—find these looks at your local flea market, Goodwill, vintage boutique or best friend’s closet.
No matter which clan speaks to your style soul, play dress up and have fun with it. We all have an inner “indigenous queen” dying to get out and express herself. Sure, it’s just fashion, but it could be the easiest way to embrace, allow and empower something essential—and beautiful--about the primal you.
For more tips on ethnic style, visit the Style page
of Conscious Living TV, or watch “Africa Rising: Modahnik
” to see it live on the conscious catwalk at Vert Couture 2010.