We wear the world: tribal textiles

Traditional tribal textiles have never looked more modern, says Naomi Attwood


As long as there have been fashion collections, designers have looked to the traditional dress of other cultures for inspiration. Certain designers return time and time again to favourite foreign territories; Matthew Williamson has based many a collection on the ultra-vivid pinks, turquoises and golds from his frequent trips to India, while native of Demark, Peter Jensen, has injected elements of traditional Greenland dress, thanks to muse, his Aunt Jytte – to his catwalk offerings.

John Galliano, when at the head of Christian Dior and his eponymous label, was famous for embarking on research trips where he and his team would go to various exotic locations to soak up the local colours, textiles and architecture, bringing back a completely fresh perspective to his atelier as the basis, or “story” for a new collection.

This season, traditional fabrics have taken on a new identity, thanks to a clutch of independent labels. Neither resembling the theatricality of haute couture, nor the gap year aesthetic you could pick up at Camden market or on holiday, these labels bridge the gap between high street and high end, each having taken a distinctive fabric from an different culture and created super- modern, unfussy garments for the contemporary woman.

Thu Thu

“I was so inspired by the Sapa people and their beautiful fabrics on my travels to Vietnam in 2009, it sparked the idea for the label,” says Thuy Duong Nguyen. “My initial idea was to create a biker jacket and combine this with traditional Sapa fabric. It was the first ever piece I created. The collection evolved from this.” The fabric used in Thu Thu collections is handmade by the H'mong women of Vietnam each time a new baby is born, using beeswax and indigo. brownsfashion.com

Cats Brothers

Although knitwear design duo Lindsay McKean and Anna Wilkinson haven't visited Mexico their “luxury streetwear” label, Cats Brothers, was born from a mutual appreciation of the hand-crafted textiles, colours, motifs and fabrics from country, coupled with the idea of Mexico's Day of the Dead paying tribute to dead rappers. Browns Focus 0207 514 0063

The African Shirt Company

“We thought it could be a viable business idea when a shirt I had made on a visit to Kenya got so many compliments every time I wore it [in the UK],”said Joan Hughes, who with her friend, artist and print maker, Lindi Campbell Clause, runs The African Shirt Company, which trains and employs local village women in a Kenyan village to make women's shirts using distinctive Kanga print fabrics. As the money made from selling the shirts in this country gets ploughed back into the local community (including a tree nursery) the label is also a social enterprise.


Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executives - OTE £25,000

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Software Developer - C# .Net

    £18500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: While some fundamental programm...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer - C# .Net

    £23500 - £28500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for someone wi...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative - Conservatories / Windows / Doors

    £35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This home improvement company a...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral