Five niche fashion brands that have nailed this summer’s global nomad trend
Intricate designs and traditional skills feature in clothes and shoes inspired by cultures from around the world. We look at the hottest new brands
The spotlight this summer is on the global nomad trend, which has graced the catwalks of designers from Valentino to Isabel Marant with tribal prints, colourful embroideries and exquisite handiwork.
Many of the styles appear to have been painstakingly crafted by indigenous tribes in Africa, but most were produced by factories in Italy, India or China. If you want the real deal, a growing number of niche brands are showcasing textiles and crafts from across the globe.
The eponymous label of Ukrainian designer Vita Kin is popular among street style stars such as Anna Della Russo and Ukrainian Giovanna Battaglia. Boho-inspired airy dresses and tops feature native vyshyvanka (traditional blouse) embroidery in vibrant colour schemes.
Made in the designer’s workshop in Kiev, it takes a month to teach the workers how to create a piece. The embroidery is done by machine but the sleeves, collars and cuffs are assembled by hand using traditional methods. Some styles take four to five weeks to produce and cannot be outsourced.
While Vita Kin pays homage to her Ukrainian ancestry, Australian fashion editor Pippa Holt had to venture far from home to find inspiration for her line of eponymous boho chic kaftans. The heavyweight cotton that forms the base of each piece is from Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, and is woven on traditional black loom machines.
It takes four hours to sew the panels and up to a month to make a kaftan entirely by hand (each piece is unique and prices start at HK$5,000). Her latest designs include an oversized white style covered in rainbow motifs. Another features a canvas of hand-woven black and white stripes overlaid with colourful geometric embroideries.
In Greece, many of the country’s skilled craftsmen have new hope thanks to fashion brand Zeus + Dione, which was founded in 2011 by Mareva Grabowski and Dimitra Kolotoura during the financial crisis.
The duo tapped the finest craftmakers and workshops in the country, beginning with the Conis family, who specialised in traditional leather sandals. The sandals were soon being stocked in boutiques around the country, and a lifestyle brand followed.
For fabrics, the pair headed to Soufli, a town at the centre of Greece’s silk trade in the 19th century. Designed by Central Saint Martins graduate Lydia Vousvouni – also Greek – the collection includes maxi dresses, blouses and kaftans made from Soufli silk.
The brand works with artisans around the country, including nuns in Crete who weave cloth and a feltmaker who makes capes. They also employ 40 women in Pomakohoria, a group of villages in the north, to create macramé that involves knotting lengths of silk into intricate patterns, for their dresses and capes.
Grabowski and Kolotoura founded the Zeus + Dione Foundation, which educates young people in traditional crafts. The line is available at luxury retailers worldwide.
Similarly, Ancient Greek Sandals is also offering work to artisans. The brand was founded by former Louis Vuitton shoe designer Christina Martini and her partner Apostolos Porsanidis Kavvadias. In 2010 they moved to the island of Corfu to raise a family and two years later Martini decided they should sell their own sandals popular with the island’s tourists.
A collection of 31 handmade styles ranged from gladiator to ankle strap sandals and featuring chemical-free natural tan leather and a signature winged buckle.
The brand has since moved production from Crete to Athens, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a fashion success story while providing work for the country’s best sandal-makers.
Sanayi 313, a line of shoes and bags from Istanbul, employs traditional Ottoman weavers. The line was co-founded by Parsons graduate Serena Uziyel who honed her shoemaking talent in Florence and Milan. When brothers Enis and Amir Karavil approached her to collaborate on a new lifestyle store in Istanbul, Sanayi 313 was born.
Uziyel wanted a line of footwear referencing the traditional Middle Eastern pointed toe slipper and after sourcing workshops in Istanbul, as well as Italy and India, she resurrected long-lost techniques to create intricate embroideries. Because there are so many stages in designing them, it is impossible to repeat a pattern or texture.
Ancient Greek Sandals and Zeus + Dione are available at net-a-porter.com
Pippa Holt, Vita Kin and Sanayai 313 are available at matchesfashion.com