What is ethnic fashion ?

The adjective "ethnic" is increasingly used in the fashion vocabulary. When we hear about "ethnic clothes", "ethnic style", "ethnic accessories" or "ethnic fashion", we immediately think of colorful items, natural materials, exotic patterns. However, when associated with fashion, the adjective "ethnic" takes a much more important meaning. In fact, the ethnic fashion, beyond the aesthetic aspect, implies a craft manufacturing and the use of noble and natural materials. Therefore, we should not confuse ethnic style and ethnic fashion. By choosing the ethnic fashion, besides affirming your personality with original clothes and accessories, you make the choice of the authenticity and the quality.

The example of wax

Wax, a famous fabric widely used in sub-Saharan Africa, was imported to the continent by the Dutch in the 19th century. This wax print of Javanese origin (Indonesian batik) remained a luxury product for a long time. In the 1950s, it was popularized by the "nanas Benz", Togolese resellers who became rich through resale. Not having an African origin, wax is not culturally associated with a territory, which allowed it to spread throughout West Africa and become a pan-African product. So much so that it is now widely associated with African identity and nicknamed "the African fabric". Originally produced in the Netherlands, several African countries have certainly created their wax factories, but this local production remains a minority. The Dutch wax remains associated with a guarantee of quality. The Dutch group Vlisco even defines its fabrics as "true Dutch wax". In the 1990s - 2000s, China began to produce wax. Today, Chinese production is in the majority. Such is the strange course of wax. Invented by the Dutch from an Indonesian technique, adopted by the Africans, produced by the Chinese, and today plebiscited by the Europeans! So we see that, contrary to what the general public might think, wax is not ethnic, neither by its style, nor by the fashion that uses it.

Artisanal dyeing in Ivory Coast
Artisanal dyeing of T-shirts in Ivory Coast

It seemed important to me to write about ethnic fashion to protect what it is for me: a respectful fashion. Respectful of ancestral know-how from which it draws its inspiration, respectful of consumers to whom it offers authentic and quality products, and respectful of the environment through the use of natural manufacturing processes. Of course, my definition is not universal. My goal is not to condemn the brands that use without complex the term "ethnic fashion" as a marketing tool, but to provoke a reflection among the customers on the meaning of its use.

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Comments (1)

    • Galicia
    • 2021-01-08 12:52:57
    En effet beaucoup de marques jouent sur les mots, il est bon de rappeler que la mode ethnique implique une fabrication artisanale. Quant à la définition de l'ethnicité, c'est un vaste débat. L'artiste Ben Vautier a d'ailleurs travaillé sur le sujet.

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