By Leah Chevis
As anyone with any sense of fashion has noticed, all the celebrities and peers from all around have been rocking what is commonly called “tribal print” for over a year now. Skirts, pants, shorts, shoes, tops, corsets, accessories, and even nail polish has been taken over by diverse patterns and vivid contrasts of color that can turn even the most basic of basics into an exotic statement.
What is it about these vibrant garments that attract stares everywhere from the clothing rack to the Brickyard? Junior Avni Satasia said, “I really like the African print because it’s unique in its style and very eye-catching. I like the different patterns and colors.”
Yes, the appearance of these garments is diverse, eye-catching and all around beautiful, but to the surprise of every person I have conversed with on the subject, these patterns are not “African” inspired at all. In fact, these prints are based off of authentic Hispanic patterns from the Mayan people.
The original garments are actually handmade. Basic machinery run completely by women use backstrap weaving techniques to construct colorful fabrics with rows of colorful yarns and substitute materials due to limitations. This fabric is then sewn together with torn strips of plastic bags, still creating gorgeous and durable articles of clothing.
In contrast, U.S. manufacturers usually print the designs on pre-constructed fabric. If not that, then heavy pre-set machinery constructs the fabric with chemically dyed fiber blends and sews the fabric into garments with sewing machines. These garments are beautiful and, for the most part, inexpensive. However, they are not as durable and do not coincide with the rules of authentic Mayan culture.
Lisbeth Arias, a senior in fashion and textile design, brought the two worlds together. For one month, Arias spent time with Mayan women in Guatemala, learning about their culture and techniques of fabrication while in turn teaching the women what she knows about textiles and the U.S industry. Not to mention, she also got the chance to single-handedly start the mass production of Christmas stockings in the country.
One of the most distinct differences she noticed between our culture and that of Guatemala was a hobby versus lifestyle complex. Here, the designs are fabricated for the sole purpose of making money. Clothing and accessories are made as cheaply as possible and sold to trend-hungry consumers with no regard to what the pattern really represents. In Guatemala, creating these prints is a basis of life. Without this, many families would go without food, water and other necessities. The production of fabrics is so important, in fact, that the only way to tell where someone is from is based on what they are wearing.
Each of the 23 communities in Guatemala produces a unique set of colors, patterns, textures and styles from their fabric. It represents who they are, what they do and how they got there. The U.S uses aspects from all of the communities, however American manufacturers do not abide by the rules of the cultures—mixing the colors, textures and patterns of different communities to create the variety of designs we see daily.
Whether you see the U.S.’s variation of the Hispanic culture’s many styles as an innovative adaptation to satisfy American tastes or a blatant disrespect of an original Hispanic culture depends on your take of the industry. Regardless, this ongoing fashion trend is more than a mere statement of exotic-uniqueness, but also an ode to a strong culture of commitment, tradition and authentic beauty.
Source: Technician Online