Culture has a huge role to play in society. So, there is no surprise when it is said that culture influences fashion and the industry as well. Fashion is basically culture and when culture changes, fashion changes with it as well.
So, what is culture? Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts. Therefore, with culture being an essential part of society, the fashion industry must always keep up with it or else they may be at risk of either offending certain cultures or creating clothing items that would not fit the society’s standards and ultimately cause their designed clothes to flop!
Examples of different cultural fashion
Culture hugely influences the way people dress. For example, culture influences the dressing of religious people. Religion has a huge impact on dress code. and Christian women are required to dress modestly. This is shown in the Bible verse 1 Timothy 2:9-10 where it states, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good deeds." For the Christian women that put this bible verse into practice, this would mean that they would be wearing clothes such as long skirts, long sleeved clothing and clothes that generally cover them.
Similarly, most Muslim women also wear attires in which their bodies are completely covered as asked to by their religion. These clothes that most Muslim women wear include a shalwar kameez, long maxis, and burqas or abayas etc.
And Buddhist monks wear robes that covers the neck to the ankle which serves the purpose of their vocation which is to live apart from the world so they can save and heal without being trapped by temptation.
Furthermore, there are different traditional clothing from around the world which is majorly influenced by culture. This includes the Sari which is a garment traditionally worn in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. The Sari has been defined as a single piece of unstitched fabric, often with heavier sections to allow it to drape correctly. The Sari was traditionally a unisex piece of clothing, even though it is now worn by women. The Saris are often passed down from one generation to the next or are given as gifts for milestone moments.
Another traditional clothing is the Kente cloth, a Ghanaian traditional cloth. The Kente Is woven on a horizontal strip loom, which produces a narrow band of cloth about four inches wide. The significance of the Kente is that it is a royal cloth for special occasions.
There are many more clothes such as the Kimono, which is a traditional full-length robe worn in Japan, the Hanbok which is a traditionally a Korean dress, the kilt, which is the traditional dress of Gaelic men, or the Agbada which is a flowing wide sleeved robe worn by men in West Africa and parts of North Africa.
These are all clothes influenced by culture. These people wear their cultural clothing with pride, and this would mean that the fashion industry would also need informing in order to make garments more suitable for them, or to make sure that they are respecting these cultures when they are inspired by them.
The cultural influence on the fashion industry
For everyone who works in the fashion industry, it is important to be able to recognize the culture that they are being inspired by and that they can anticipate cultural movements, as this will help them make better decisions.
Have you ever heard of the phrase; we wear culture? Or we are culture? If you haven’t let me, explain; you are either wearing clothes made from your own culture or you are wearing clothes made from other cultures.
The term globalisation is the process by which businesses or organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. So, this would mean that industries such as fashion would start to incorporate other cultural styles to their own making a clothing item more globalised and potentially a trend. One example of a globalised accessory are nose rings. Nose rings had been practiced for over 4,000 years, with nostril piercing being originated in the Middle East which then travelled to India and beyond. Afterwards, it became a common practice in the Western civilization. This is the product of globalisation.
Other fashion designers who travel or working with other designers from different aspects of the world can also introduce one cultural fashion into another culture. This happened with Narciso Rodriguez, who worked with Ann Klein under Donna Karan, and later Calvin Klein on their women's collection, which he attributed to his Cuban Heritage. In addition to this, Laduma Ngxokolo also developed a knitwear range using main textiles mohair and wool from South Africa.
These are all ways in which cultural fashion can end up being an influence to the fashion industry. However, it is important that they learn to respect these cultures that they are being inspired by or they might face a backlash from appropriating cultures. For example, the durag from the African American community has had the purpose of protecting and preserving hairstyles in the Black community. However, when celebrities such as Kylie Jenner wore it, there was backlash as the history and purpose of the durag was not being respected.
Culture has influence!
It's fair to say that culture has a huge influence on fashion. What we wear and understanding culture is very important as there is a lot of hidden history behind garments. Try to always remember that you are wearing some part of culture!