Wednesday, 08 June 2022

Cross cultural lines. Respectfully.

Written by Dress Decanted
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Daniel Guerra

Fashions Finest welcomes real conversation and topics requiring a little courage, often come close from the heart and need a nurturing space to let it breathe.

As a family, we like to talk such things out together. Some of our podcast episodes are found here and this conversation is through written form but in honest self reflection, told by a personal stylist, also part of the Fashions Finest family.

One British personal stylist uncovers his fears on the insensitivities of wearing ethnic clothing and how if left unchecked, the privilege of heritage clothing will be closed off to all non-descendants.

Mathew has had many chats with Deborah, the Founder and Director of Fashions Finest, about sustainability, style and business. His thoughts on the indelicate use of ancestral clothing worn in gimmick affairs felt too large to ignore. As a stylist, naturally focusing on how such clothing is worn, Mathew shares his view on the importance of traditional garments and how it affects who we are and where we came from. You can delve into the deep introspective thoughts of Dress Decanted here.

I was born in the wrong generation.

We have all heard it or seen it typed. On an iPhone, using wifi where unadulterated, it can reach anyone. We have almost unlimited music, opinions, and access to comforts that centuries ago would’ve been perceived as utopia, however.

This is not a commentary on the world, this is a plea to fashion and clothing lovers everywhere. 

Before the printing press; there were two sides of the world that were essentially blind to each other, word of mouth and border-less merchants peddling exotic cultural riches were the only bridge between either sides of the equator.

We now have unbridled access to almost every unique and historically soaked ancestral tradition if we just scroll through long enough.

Ignorance and unwillingness to look past their own nose has led to cornucopias of untapped love to be left subjected to gatekeeping in an attempt to preserve the connection of the humble and spiritual tapestries passed down through generations.

Cultural appropriation has been diluted into a penniless argument of “us or them” when it obviously goes much deeper.

Speaking from someone who thought they were a permanent resident in camp “never appease anyone” only makes my stance on this more informed than that of someone who just simply wants to make everyone or no one happy as a matter of principle.

No one wants to tiptoe around other peoples sentimentalities, but being aware of them and willing to find appreciation in the older-than-forged-steel traditions of passed down heritage is not a weakness. It’s expressing a desire to give value that extends past gimmick.

If you want to be a gimmick, you do it at more than your own risk. You affect the whole world and slow time itself.

The loss we all experience when painfully closed minded people choose to die on the hill sharing the view that wearing a sari or Native American headdress at a fancy costume party is somehow not damaging to the culture is honestly heartbreaking.

Every time a celebrity decides to “go Indian” or “Nigerian” on a whim for a few weeks then bin it off, they naively invite those cultures to understandably close off access to anyone that does not have bloodline connections.

Having a British Sikh wear a 3-piece Harris tweed suit, or a French-Canadian wearing traditional Igbo tribal garments are only a designer's due diligence and respect away from being on the red carpet or even wedding, paying homage to the roots.

"Every word I’ve written is drenched in “is this okay to say?” Egg-shell tiptoeing, this is a symptom of the stubbornness that the mindset I talk about perpetuates.

A few conversations with the families and tribes that bled into their staples would allow for this. And is the open minded, well intended step forward that the indelicate destructive industrial complex that is fashion has been needing for quite some time.

The Antidote To This Toxic Environment Revolves Around Genuine Love And Appreciation

It cannot come falsely.

Researching non white-washed literature from authors that come from the cultures you want to pay homage to, is not going to secure organic results. It’s simply about people, real people.

Embracing the culture from those around you through trust and respect creates a natural opportunity to share where we all came from.

Whatever culture happens to be on your doorstep, invite it into your life, through food, friends, values and faith. These are the foundations of what make us, and how we identify ourselves through our ancestry is our clothing.

There is nothing more appealing and beautiful than adopting the national dress of a loved one for a special occasion with the help of their family to dress you like their grandparents. By dropping your own identity for a celebrated moment paying homage to another’s lineage, you’re not just living the spirit of a pastime but all the craftsmanship, heritage and heart that is stitched into it.

It’s an appreciation and a delicate reminder that we all hold something sacred from before, that has been passed down from generations and that in itself, the preservation of lineage through clothing is historical. And that is worth celebrating.

'So I say again… Cross cultural lines, respectfully." - Dress Decanted

A Little Bit About Sustainable Personal Styling

Styling using stuff that's probably been worn, not new, and most likely made to last a bit longer, with as little impact on the environment as possible.

True style stems around the individual, rather than a trend shaping people. Personal styling is all about self expression and welcoming the right conversation for you and achieving goals to feel more connected to your values and aspirations.

British personal stylist, Dress Decanted specialises in vintage clothing sourced from ebay, charity shops and thrift stores in UK, Europe and the US.

More personal stylists can be found in our business directory here.