From Indonesia to Korea, Paris hosts fashion from around the world
A unique shirt made from newspaper fabric hung next to another printed shirt, created using natural dyes from exotic leaves or flowers and eco-friendly printing techniques. These two garments were presented at the "Experience Indonesia, un voyage artisanal" event, embodying a sample of tradition from the more than 17,000 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, which is distinguished by its rich biodiversity and a wide variety of languages and ancestral tribes. The last men's fashion week in Paris was an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the country, taking it beyond the folkloric perception of its craftsmanship.
"With this project, we want to weave alliances and present the 'savoir-faire' of artisans in Indonesia. We want to bring awareness to the vast Indonesian heritage and bring it closer to the fashion and luxury industry," explained Amal Sultan, head of the agency L'Adresse Paris, who organized the event together with Bank Indonesia. In parallel, the country was also highlighted at BHV Le Marais, with an exhibition entitled "De Java à Bali" and a selection of summer products.
Preserving ancestral know-how and creating jobs for women
The objective of this project is to preserve and revive ancestral techniques while building a network of employment and resources for female artisans in order to protect them from poverty and social exclusion. To achieve this, the Indonesian fashion and lifestyle platform brought together 15 local workshops. With 270 million inhabitants, the Asian country has more than 8 million creative businesses. Handicrafts is one of the region's main sources of income along with tourism, which has been severely affected by the pandemic.
The project leaders took advantage of Paris Fashion Week to close deals with international buyers and establish creative-artisanal synergies. Apart from a classic commercial objective, the creative platform also wanted to develop relationships between local workshops and designers or brands interested in their skills or raw materials, in a sustainable and eco-responsible way.
And the application of these craft techniques are many: batik dyeing on hand-embroidered cotton clothes or decorative bamboo objects, various braiding techniques, use of natural pineapple or banana fibers for clothing, design of wicker or jute bags and accessories, modern trinkets made of pandanus leaves, ceramics or elements created from coconut... The list is long and not exhaustive.
The beauty of Colombian craftsmanship
Indonesia is not the only country to assert the value of its exotic craftsmanship. Colombia made its mark in Paris with two premium brands. Founded by Isabella Espinoza in Bogotá in 2015, Baobab made its debut in the French capital with a colorful swimwear and beachwear fashion show staged on a morning cruise on the Seine to expand its business in Europe. "Our goal is to make Colombian design known around the world and use fashion to bring about change," detailed the entrepreneur, who studied law and is betting on "a circular and sustainable economic model."
Her swimsuits, which retail for around $200, are made of recycled polyester from plastic waste and fishing nets collected from the sea. Each swimsuit purchased contributes to the restoration of the coral reef in San Andrés, Colombia. Meanwhile, the ready-to-wear line consists mainly of summer dresses and sarongs, with proceeds going to reforestation programs alongside communities in the region. The brand, characterized by its sensual and timeless designs rendered in vibrant colors, has already its own boutique in Bogotá and distributes its pieces in more than 100 points of sale worldwide, including Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Revolve.
Agua Bendita, also from Colombia, has even bought a commercial showroom in Le Marais to showcase its easily recognizable swimwear and ready-to-wear pieces. The label, founded by two friends Catalina Álvarez and Mariana Hinestroza, uses tropical prints and handmade floral and animal embroidery to employ more than 500 women artisans settled in rural areas of Medellín, in order to "pay tribute to ancestral techniques" and "improve their living conditions while recognizing their talent". In most cases, these women are housewives who are protected by an independent source of income.
With 25 of its own stores and a large network of distributors abroad, the brand already generates 65% of its sales outside its borders. In 2018, it released a second line inspired by biodiversity in Latin America, "Agua by Agua Bendita," with a commitment to sustainability and a high-end positioning. Currently, its collections are sold at Le Bon Marché and on Net-a-Porter, LuisaViaRoma and Moda Operandi, among others. Well represented in its own country and in the United States, the firm was pleased with the "good reception" it received during its presentation and sees its development in Europe as favorable.
From Mexico to Peru, a reinterpretation of customs and traditions
Also hailing from across the Atlantic, Mexican brand The Pack brought the "charro" culture to the Boon showroom, just steps away from Bastille, to develop its wholesale channel. Founded in 2016 by designer Patricio Campillo, the menswear label revisits traditional horsemen's garb and adds a contemporary twist that aims to "preserve local culture beyond trends." Its sophisticated aesthetic is loaded with elements borrowed from the equestrian world, including embroidered pants, leather jackets and blouses, sweaters and silk blouses in oxidized colors. Several famous musicians have already succumbed to the brand's charm, such as Leon Bridges, Jay Cortez and Bad Bunny.
"Most of the materials we use are biodegradable. We have an eco-responsible approach and we seek to reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible," explained the Mexico City-based designer who prides himself on using metal-free plant-based pigments and producing on demand. "In this project, we try to make garments that have a positive impact on society," added Campillo. The brand's positioning is high-end, with linen shirts starting at $150 and embroidered leather biker jackets at $1,300. "The price must represent the value of the pieces," said the designer. He is committed to preserving local production in cities like Toluca, where he carries out the manufacturing of his leather items.
Another Latin American label, D.N.I (Documento Nacional de Identidad), chose Untitled Showrool, which works regularly with the Esmod school, to present its designs. Founded in Paris in 2019, the brand is the most recent project of Paulo and Roberto Ruiz Muñoz, two twins who emigrated to France at the age of 12 and always dreamed of studying fashion. Their casual and cheerful silhouettes, use of vibrant colors, delicate mother-of-pearl appliqués and eye-catching prints pay homage to the summers on the beach of Huanchaco, located in the village of Casagrande.
In this contemporary reinterpretation of Peruvian traditions, motorcycle cabs, local dugout canoes called "little reed horses", local gastronomy and references to childhood coexist with light cotton or thick fleece garments. The firm, which has T-shirts priced at 70 euros and shirts available for 210 euros, participated in a pop-up last spring at the Parisian department store Printemps that highlighted Peruvian design.
From Korean minimalism to the Ukrainian struggle for survival
Meanwhile, the Victor Showroom at the Galerie Richard in Paris welcomed a handful of Korean brands determined to regain a foothold in Europe after the hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Founded in 2020 by influencer EunHye Shin, the brand Le17Septembre Homme produces garments with clean lines. At Missing You Already, silhouettes are kept minimalistic and colors neutral. Lvir, for its part, is inspired by traditional Korean workwear while Blossom offers casual suits. The latter brand made its debut during the pandemic and is already selling its items on the Canadian e-commerce platform Ssense.
The bold accessories that have people talking on social media deserve a special mention. These include Numbering's delicate heart-shaped jewelry, already seen on K-pop stars and characters from the Gossip Girl reboot, and Marge Sherwood's leather bags available in multiple styles, and platform sandals and high heels starting at 230 euros.
During Haute Couture week, Ukrainian label Frolov made a notable return to the French capital with a show at the Westminster Hotel. Founded by designer Ivan Frolov in 2012, the ready-to-wear brand has had to survive in the hostile environment that its country of origin has become, which has been at war for the past few months. Its latest collection, "Hot Couture", was designed before the outbreak of war, but has evolved into "something completely different from what it should have been", given the inevitable "irrelevance" of the collection's initial inspirations. Wedding dresses and fluorescent feathers acquired a new meaning in this troubled geopolitical context. In parallel, Frolov continued its charity work with hand-embroidered T-shirts featuring his famous yellow and blue heart, the sales of which benefit children affected by the war.
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