Friday, September 26, 2008

Ethnic influences on design


The most basic reasons for dressing oneself include: protection, decoration, modesty, and status. In different cultures one’s dress can be affected by gender, age, or social status. Dress can also hold ceremonial uses or be used to enhance sexual attractiveness. (The Visible Self, 2000. Eicher, Evenson, Lutz.) These factors combine to form the thought behind the everyday dress of different cultures around the world, and because of this designers are able to pull ideas from various trends and adapt them to an acceptable western form.

Something that is ethnic is something that has come from the past, and has not changed. Dress is used as a mark of ethnicity that communicates group identity. Ethnicity embraces this group cohesion, which also includes shared language, similar dress, manners, and lifestyle. This sense of ethnicity is not immediate, it is established over time. Some examples of particular garments that have impacted western dress are: the kimono, the dashiki, the hijab.

The hijab, meaning to veil or to cover, originated in the Islamic and Muslim worlds. Both require women to cover everything except their face and hands. The hijab has become a symbol of “Islamic consciousness and has emerged as an affirmation of Islamic identity and morality.” (Wikipedia, 2003.)

The hijab has been adapted to western dress and is see through many variations. Without knowing, women and sometimes men, are wearing their scarves, or wrapping their headdresses based on the hijab’s influence.


The dashiki, which originated in Africa, is another garment that has influenced the west. is a colorful men's garment that covers the top half of the body. Traditional female attire is called a caftan. A common form of these two garments is a loose-fitting pullover, with an detailed V-shaped collar, and an embroidered neck and sleeve line.

The dashiki has been modified to western dress by almost every designer. When making the garments designers typically make the western style tunic somewhat form fitting, with patterns a little more tame than that of the dashiki and the embroidery not being as detailed.

Asia influences western dress more than we realize. The kimono is possibly the most recognizable garment originating in Asia. Kimono's are long t-shaped garments that brush the floor. Kimonos are wrapped, left side over right, and are held in place by a belt. Designers have adapted the printed flowers of kimonos to western dresses, along with the structured shape of the garment. The high-waisted belt could have also been taken from Asian dress.

Media has influenced people around the world, in that through media people that may never travel from their home country are influenced by international dress. Designers now travel all over the world, see styles they love, and adapt them to western dress.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trends for Spring 2009

Exclusively New York!

Because Mercedes-Benz fashion week hosts so many designers I decided to pick three, completely at random, to write overviews on. In order to describe the trends for Spring 2009 RTW I reviewed as many lines as I could without feeling overwhelmed.

The first designer I chose was Anna Sui. In this collection I noticed a combination of textures on every piece. Sui combined lace with silk, and criss-cross patterns with vertical stripes and bold colors. She had plaid throughout her line, combining minor plaid attributes to many of the pieces. On every piece there was either a fringe or lace lining around the hem of the dress, but incorporated barely any shorts or capris. “The work was very colorful, optimistic and happy, which is what I’m pushing for these days.” Sui stated of her line.
Anna Sui Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear

The second designer I chose was Diane Von Furstenberg. Furstenberg described her line as “rock goddess” which included layered dresses, and many outfits with silk capris. There were a few form fitting pieces that I would have though did not match, but when put together looked great! She had a lot of bold patterns, for example combining flowers with stripes. Style magazine described her line as having “boldly colored, lush prints!” “The overall effect was one of complete optimism. We could all use a hefty dose of that…” ( (2008). Diane Von Furstenberg. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from
Diane von Furstenberg Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear

The last designer I chose was Reem Acra. Meenal Mistry, the author of the review, described that this line “wove a tale that began in the attic of a royal castle, the kind of magically cobwebbed place where one might chance upon a forgotten stash of silks and gems.” Almost every piece in this entire collection had a collar, whether it tied or buttoned. Acra used sheer and delicate fabrics that were, as Mistry described them, “electric in color.” It seemed to me that some of the patterns (the types of floral chosen) and architecture of the tops were oriental inspired.
Reem Acra Spring 2009 Ready-to-Wear

With so many different designers showcasing their work it is hard to tell what styles will be copied so that we, the middle class, can afford them. There are some definite trends to be on the look out for. Color is a huge trend to follow. Bright colors will be very popular, along with eye-catching prints. Flowy tops with a tunic styling to them seemed to be a part of every designer’s collection along with a number of silk pieces. Above all I think designer wanted to make their pieces fresh, airy, and extremely feminine.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Organic and Environmentally Friendly Clothing

All That is Friendly

“Organic clothing is clothing that is made from materials that are raised or grown without the use of chemicals in the form of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals.” (Wikipedia 2008) Garments that are unquestionably organic share factors that benefit the environment. One factor, stresses not harming humans or animals, another focuses on preventing chemical leakage. After doing some research I’ve realized that different “organic” or “environmentally friendly” retailers specialize in different products. Some focus on lifestyle and beauty products. Others in products made from organic, recycled or alternative natural materials, or made by fair trade producer groups. A few combine fashion and eco-friendly clothing and donate to charitable organizations.
Cotton is harvested in a few ways that are eco-friendly. One way to reduce the need for chemicals and dyes involved in the finishing process is for manufacturers to bye naturally colored cotton. Natural colors include: brown, rust, red, beige and green. The colors enhance over time, and are produced in Arizona and Texas.
When organic cotton is produced it must follow certain state mandated regulations. For a tag so say organic, the cotton that was used to produce the shirt has to have been grown in a field where organic farming techniques have been repeated for at least three years. On this land no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers may be used. Transitional cotton meets the same standards as organic cotton, but the required three-year minimum has not yet been fulfilled. Green cotton is another alternative for consumers. This describes cotton that has been washed with a mild natural-based soap but has not been bleached or treated with other chemicals.
I think it would pay off for producers if they focused on hemp. Hemp can be cottonized and processed to feel just like cotton. Hemp can be white or come in other natural colors, and can be machine-washed and dried. Hemp is absorbent, and does not require pesticides during production. More hemp can be produced per acre than cotton, and hemp can be used to rid farmland from mercury and zinc.
I do think that organic clothing is a fantastic idea, and no one can argue the aid it gives to our environment, but these pieces are so expensive. Naturally colored cotton sells for twice the price of white cotton.
Now that it is “cool” to wear organic clothing and bye eco-friendly wardrobes, celebrities have begun doing it. Everyone knows that when something becomes popular in Hollywood, the price is going to rise. The freshest new designers are going cater to the wants and needs of Hollywood’s hottest in hopes of becoming the next big thing. For environmentally and organic clothing to flourish there needs to be an incentive for producers, and a demand from consumers which would come naturally if the product were affordable.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Favorite Designer

Why Isaac?

“They’re not trendy clothes, they’re chic.”

Whenever I began to think about this assignment I was completely confused as to what designer might be my favorite. Of course as a CARS major one would think I’d be able to rattle off designers and reasons for liking their lines, but I was stumped. To me high fashion designers seemed to be the obvious choice, but that’s a little mundane. Although the average person does not think Isaac Mizrahi when they think of runway, I beg to differ and wish to shed a bit of light on his brilliance.
It is not in the mind of most designers to create pieces that won’t be seen on the runways of Milan or New York, so to master ready-to-wear for everyday women is genius. “Known as much for custom-made ball gowns as tweed jackets” Isaac brings high fashion to the suburbs, through a convenient retailer and at an affordable price. I love Isaac’s designs because they’re fresh as
well as stylish because he adapts the runway to everyday. He creates the illusion that we, as middle class Americans, have become the new “it girls” of New York and his newest designs have been catered specifically to us. Isaac has been described as designing “cheap-chic” and his talents don’t end there, he also designs shoes, bags, bedding, various accessories, etc., and although Mizrahi’s pieces are not one-of-a-kind, buyers cannot get enough.

Stick thin models are commonly used due to the appeal they create for the modeled clothes. Although I believe this to be impractical as well as untrue the situation remains as such. Just because a garment is offered in various sizes does not mean that it was designed for bigger women or that it will flatter them, and with a broad range of sizes existing in modern women I think it’s vital to a designers success to cater to all of them. Through personal observation I have seen Isaac’s line look great of all body types. My sisters and I vary drastically in shape and size and are able to fit, and feel comfortable wearing his clothes.
In essence Isaac Mizrahi is my favorite designer because of his ability to reinvent the runway and produce a ready-to-wear line that is within price, and is extremely fashionable. I respect Mizrahi for establishing himself with Target, and hope that he can produce the same results in revitalizing Claiborne’s line.