Of course, fashion is welcome to take its influences from wherever it likes but what’s frustrating and what makes me unsupportive of the industry’s choices is its execution. It never makes an effort to understand the places where rips ideas from; fashion’s imagination is limited in the most insulting ways.
With regards to wax prints and Africa it always it bandies about the word ‘tribal’ framing African culture as one that exists in only the most primitive sense. Magazines spreads scream the need to Get Into The Wild or Be Wild at Heart or Become Wild Things. Anne Slowey’s Fashion Know It All column on how to wear African prints ended with this sentence that made me spit and cry: ‘Spear or no spear, these looks are pinpoint perfection’.
And then there are the obligatory desert photo shoots. Keira Knightley climbs a rock and ‘tribes people’ as props look on. Agyness Dean kneels by a tiger and ‘tribes people’ as props look on. Isabel Lucas stands forlornly by a mud hut and ‘tribes people’ as props look on. In all of this there is no adherence to the history, culture, meaning and feeling that already exists inside these clothes.
I am bracing myself for the upcoming Marni for H&M collaboration described as a modern tribal and Bauhaus graphics mix. The high street collection makes use of a particular print that is so familiar, if you asked me to close my eyes and draw a wax print, the mélange of sharp shape and curved lines in green blue and brown is exactly what I would scribble. This print has been fashioned into hooded dresses and cropped trousers and will be appearing on the bodies of many high street fashionistas, the thought that make me wince so hard my temples ache.
As is the case with these wearyingly frequent high-low collaborations there has been much pre-release fanfare. Images everywhere since last December, a Sophia Coppola video promoting the collection, a party celebrating its launch, all guests decked out in Marni for H&M wares. Every time I’ve seen the print worn it has startled me, I don’t think it suits anyone. No matter how it is tailored, the garment doesn’t seem to fit or hang well enough, however it is fashioned it doesn’t look right.
I see it and all I think is why is that white woman wearing my mother’s dress?