Foreign Culture / Local Couture

Published on: September 18th, 2014


Borrowing elements of style and fashion from other cultures is no new thing but, as the world and indeed our region embraces multi-culture on a broader scale, it’s inevitable that the lines will get blurrier when it comes to clothing. Here in Boulder County, for example, we have a strong hispanic population with plenty to offer when it comes to color – traditional clothing that is both vibrant and earthy. Now, we’re not suggesting that everybody rushes out and dresses in full Mexican, Japanese or Ugandan costume, but we do urge readers to look outside of the box when it comes to putting together a season’s wardrobe.

Whether it be the Middle East or Japan, India or Africa, Brazil or anywhere in Europe, there are plenty of ways that we can respectfully borrow and adapt ideas, and make them work in an everyday Boulder County sort of way. With that in mind, we spoke with photographer extraordinaire Joe Friend about the idea of having a model dress in clothes that tip a proverbial hat to just three of the many and varied world cultures. The results, as you can see, are phenomenal.

Stores like Rags Consignments and Bella Frida were delighted by the concept and, once we had found a willing an able model, it was all systems go. From accessories to pants, head-wear to shoes, and everything in-between, we’re happy that we have provided proof that the blurring of cultural clothing lines can and does work, and maybe we’ve added a few items to your online wish-list.

But don’t stop here. We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to clothing around the world. Go forth and explore. Google the most far-away nation that you can think of, and see what the indigenous folk wear. Imagine hat one element of the outfit might look like worn with a pair of Levis or a designer jacket. The world is your oyster.

Shoot graph

And so it was that we met with Joe Friend, plus model Jeanne Eisenhaure and stylists Allison and Natalie Toth in Boulder and a huge selection of clothing. We settled on South American, African and Indian themes. We also shot Eisenhaure in both traditional dress, and a fresh, modern take on the styles.

Indian clothing has evolved from loin cloths, or Langotas, to the elaborate and festive outfits of today. The colors in the clothing are important for more reasons than appearance. For example, Hindu women wear white when in mourning. Saris remain popular on the Indian subcontinent, while the Ghagra Choli, the Salwar Kameez and Churidaar Kurta are worn in other regions. The Salwar is a sort of loose, trouser, while the Ghagra Choli is a flowing dress popular in traditional dance. There’s more, but the connecting factor in Indian clothing appears to be vibrant color and material that is loose-fitting yet compliments the figure.

Hispanic clothing has a rich history too, stemming from a variety of countries and cultures. The colors are vital, as they are in India, but the dresses seem to have poofy sleeves and lots of embroidery, with roots in the 17th century Mexican peasant dresses. Dance is a huge factor, and the women’s clothes reflect that by being elaborate, brash and fun.

Africa is a large continent that, over the years, has seen other cultures infiltrate its countries thanks to the likes of Britain and France stomping around. Still, traditional African clothing remains colorful and usually made from natural fibers, giving it a earthy and practical yet festive feel. Moroccan clothing differs greatly from, say, Ethiopian wear, but color is a connecting factor. Like most ethnic clothing, the need to dance has had a big say over the years, and that’s true in Africa too.

We feel that we’ve captured an ideal and attractive combination of traditional and contemporary – outfits that have one eye on these cultures’ pasts while keeping another firmly in present-day Colorado. Practicality, fashion and comfort were all taken into consideration, resulting in outfits that feel respectful and artistically vibrant. These are to be considered guides, not blueprints. See what combos you can create yourself.

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