And What Modest Fashion Designers Can Learn from the Big Houses of Fashion

by Jonquil Dun

Dior 2020 Cruise Collection featuring Ankara fabrics

There has been a trend for appreciation of indigenous and traditional art among the giants of the fashion industry, recently.

Just last year, we saw the iconic designer House of Dior utilizing traditional age-old textile-making techniques from Europe to Africa to Asia. In the brand’s 2020 Cruise Collection, they employed Ankara; the wax textile printing technique which was first produced in Indonesia before it reached African continent and called it Chitenge or Kente and became so popular there. They also brought Sumano art that are mostly found in pottery- making and incorporated it into the woven wool fabrics by the Ouled Sless women of a mountain range in Northern, Morocco. Ikat fabrics from Indonesia was featured also for Summer 2021 collection. Bevilacqua, an embossed velvet fabric that once was a famous loom in Italy in the 19800’s was also revitalized in their 2021 Autumn/Winter collection, along with the Tombolo; a lace-making technique practiced in Puglia, also in Italy.

Isabel Marant quilted jacket (Photo from Pinterest)
Dior Sumano print cloak (Photo from Vogue)

Although it is not the first time that we see mainstream brands reviving forgotten arts, designers like Oscar de la Renta who was known to use traditional fabrics in his designs, have been featuring ancient fabrics in the runway. In 2005, he employed Uzbek Endek fabrics and there has been moments when Waris and Paracas  and Gamuzas from South Americas appeared in his collection.

The brand Hermes too in their 2021 collection revisited a lone surviving art of the Japanese Suminagashi; a unique textile printing technique done by marbling. While Isabel Marant used the Bengali method of recycling cloth called “Kantha”. Kantha is characterized by a single stitch and is often associated as an embroidery art and patchwork.

Etro Jacket Fall 2014

Appreciating the ancient art of making textiles could be one way of addressing climate change and making more room for creativity.

There are plenty of ways of upcycling and recycling textile wastes but one that is easy and requires no complex machinery is patchwork and quilting. We saw how magnificent patchwork can look in the colorful array of Dolce and Gabbana’s Spring 2021. Similarly, 5 years earlier Chanel showcased a collection that introduces patchwork technique.

Patchwork in Dolce and Gabbana Spring 2021 Runway

Fashion being one of the biggest contributors of pollution need to really take matters seriously. And as modest fashion is becoming popular, the demand to produce modest fashion garments will also increase. Although modest fashion industry is becoming saturated and too many manufacturers making the same thing, modest fashion designers should put more effort in making a distinct, unique pieces that evokes luxury that can address not only the market demand but also the issue of sustainability and luxury.

The fashion industry will one day get exhaust itself with fast production given the rising trend for “Individuality” promoted by the internet, there are many unexplored areas of fashion and arts that are yet to be rediscovered. Ancient textiles are becoming popular as well as the methods used. For modest fashion designers to sustain their brand, they need to consider and look up to what the big fashion houses are doing.

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