Natural Materials of South America Fashion
When we think of South America, colours spring to mind. Whether it’s through the diverse landscapes filled with indigenous flora and fauna, the pulsating vibes of the samba or the rich and vibrant culture that seems to weave its way through each town.
Flair and effervescence thrive among the Latin American communities, which can also be seen in their fashions. From the intricate jewellery and bag motifs of the Mayan people to the designer women’s fashions of catwalk regulars like the elegant Venezuelan Carolina Herrera and her structured and glamorous creations, along with the bold stylings of Brazilian Carlos Miele. Miele’s artistic stimulations have always reflected his roots from bold colours to traditional techniques like crochet and patchwork inherent in his designs, and as such he is a firm believer of giving back to his native Sao Paolo and employing the people who know best.
The acknowledgment of initiatives such as Fair Trade has brought a realisation of the poverty some areas have suffered and helped instill much of the basic rights of life that we take for granted, such as education. It would seem designers have also followed suit, wanting to utilise the innate skills of the local craftsmen and train them in contemporary fashions; proving that couture can effect even the most impoverished of places.
As well as resident talent, it has also been the inspiration for many designers such as the award-winning Emma Francois. After visiting the continent in 1995, Francois became enthralled with the natural resources and craftsmanship on offer and returned home to start the French label Sess??n. Bringing the skills and crafts of Latin America back to her home soil, Francois infused her designs with the ethos and abundant raw materials, combining them with modern styles and finishing them with a distinct artisan workmanship.
Most designers that have been influenced by these trends have especially enjoyed the use and manipulation of South America’s main fashion export; wool. The world’s third biggest wool provider, South America has been an important source for the global textile industry, with a range of animal fibres supplied, from the humble sheep to upmarket alpacas. These native Peruvian camelids produce a fleece that is graded on the same scale as cashmere and is also hypo-allergenic. Often used in luxury scarves, ponchos and wraps, alpaca products are being successfully introduced to the UK market through companies like Melford Green in the renowned English wool area of Suffolk.
In addition to clothing, accessories using natural materials are becoming increasingly more popular. Jewellery that features organic components like home-grown choco seeds, acai seeds and tagua nuts are being used, along with snake crystals, bamboo, amber, carved bone and of course, leathers. These eco-friendly materials that have been harvested in a sustainable way, are utilised in opposition to the synthetic substances that have so far dominated the market and can be found in the work of Gaia Accessories and The Andean Collection.
South America produces flavours that can permeate any staid society and with the promise of more of its natural resources flooding into our fashion houses… let the fun begin.