Going Global

6 February 2008

As we prepare to leave the chills of winter and embrace the budding spring, it is time to indulge ourselves in fabrics that cannot help but make us feel free-spirited and emboldened as we leave our cocoon of winter warmth and look to the world for inspiration. Globalisation isn’t just a hot topic for political campaigners, but the focus of many spring collections. This season’s catwalks are adorned with sari-esque dresses, Chinese silk scarves, mandarin collars and elaborate beaded embellishment.

Ironically as the Western fashion world produces “Oriental-inspired pieces,” Western-style fashion has strengthened its presence in Asian countries. On the streets of Asian cities, one is more likely to observe blue jeans and English-language T-shirts than cheongsams or kimonos. American and European designers have acquired an authoritative, colonial hold over much everyday fashion, due to popular demand and increased Asian buying power, However, inherent in colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable “other”. Why not subvert convention by having the coloniser mimic the colonised?

The concept of Eastern exoticism is the creation of the West. The language employed by fashion editors when discussing this culture is undeniably feminizing. Leading fashion magazines use key words and phrases such as “filmy” and “delicate”. We reduce the potency of these styles when we attempt to re-create them as something “other” in a Western context.

So bearing in mind the politics of fashion, remember that inspiration is a very different concept to re-creation. Focus on the essence of the form of the clothing; the loose, flowing form and incandescent colours of these fabrics illustrate the transformation of lustrous winter metallics into sheer transparency. Layering and the interplay of light gives the impression of elegance and movement. Swathes of satin ruffles, chiffon and soft, silky layers skim shapes like a light spring breeze. With new cascades of ruffles and voluminous airy shapes, this is statement dressing to swoon over.

To lend an edge to printed fabrics, define the waistline by cinching with a thick leather belt, or play off the softness of the fabric with a snug, cropped leather jacket. Leather is a trend that never quite dies, and with good reason; it is practical and hard-wearing as well as soft and polished. This sense of maturity should be apparent in both our image and attitude as globalisation calls for us to fuse fashion with political consciousness.