Monday, May 21, 2012

Of African Fabrics and Fashion: Part 1

I know that the temperatures are hitting the 30s on the 49th parallel. However seeing Louis Vuitton Menswear SS 2012 scarves made me long for Fall. They constitute the perfect wrap over a black leather jacket to brighten up the fading lights of Autumn.

Jak & Jil
These scarves have been inspired by the traditional wear of the Maasai, a semi-nomadic people living in the plains of Kenya and Tanzania. They preserved their millenarian life habits despite the effort of governments to convert them to a sedentary life.Their livelihood, their wealth as well as their culture revolved around their cattle. However, the Maasai were forced to adopt a sedentary lifestyle by past governments which limited the grazing of their cattle. It was believed that their lifestyle was jeopardizing the wildlife of the Serengeti Park where they mainly lived. These actions has led to the loss of a great portion of their cattle. They adapted themselves over time, now cultivating some cereals, such as maize, which have become a big part of their livelihood. Park boundaries and land privatization are continuing to limit grazing area and have forced them to change considerably, many being chased from their lands. Their existence is compromised up to this day.  Many had to abandon their traditional lifestyle, although willing to go back to their roots from time to time when possible. However, over the years, many projects have begun to help Maasai tribal leaders find ways to preserve their traditions while  providing education to their children for the modern world.

The traditional clothing worn by Maasai is called  "shuka". It used to be made of animal skin, but the latter has been replaced by cotton. It is a large piece of fabric worn by both men and women differently depending on the occasion and the personal style of each person. They are usual red being a form of camouflage for the rusted sandy area in which the Maasai live, but they come in many colors and patterns. The pattern used by Louis Vuitton is the most recognizable one.

The shuka also inspired Thakoon Fall 2011 collection.

Thakoon 2011 Masai Coat

Thakoon Panichgul reaffirmed his love and support of that region of Africa, by creating a $250 Masai scarf whose total proceeds were to be given to an international children's relief organization in the Horn of Africa. Considering the struggle of the people from which his collection was inspired, giving them support for that inspiration is very noble.

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