2015’s Best Cross-Cultural Moments in Fashion

Over the past couple of years, the maxi-trend for cross-cultural references in fashion has grown and grown. Last year was no exception with some of the most celebrated moments of 2015 a result of the fashion elite embracing the different flavors of the world.

Trends are increasingly blurred between continents and as the economic landscape shifts, so does the creative. With Chanel set to show its Resort 2017 collection in previously closed off Cuba and an array of ss16 collections taking inspiration from the far corners of the world, we can expect even more cross-culture moments in 2016 but for now, here are our favorite barrier-breaking fashion stories of the past year.

H&M’s first model with a hijab

Twenty-three-year-old Mariah Idrissi became the first model to wear a hijab for H&M earlier this year. Though it’s not quite the groundbreaking change we’d like to see, as models in the advert were deliberately chosen for defying the fashion norm, it caused quite a stir and made people sit up and notice the fact that hijabis want to be seen as fashionable. Idrissi said “It always feels like women who wear hijab are ignored when it comes to fashion. Our style, in a way, hasn’t really mattered, so it’s amazing that a brand that is big has recognized the way we wear hijab.” When it comes to diversity in fashion we’re used to talking about black models, curvy models, older models and even disabled models, but hijabis have rarely been brought into the discussion. We hope this moment marks the start of that conversation and the eventual inclusion of models wearing hijabs with no explanation needed.

Rihanna at the Met Gala

Without a doubt, Rihanna’s Met Gala outfit is the red carpet dress that will stick in everyone’s mind from 2015. Whether that’s because your draw dropped when you saw it, or that’s because you laughed at the numerous omlette memes that surfaced quickly around the internet. Whether your opinion is that the dress, which took two years to make, is ridiculous or incredible, it was by far one of the best at New York’s most fashionable event. Why? Because she actually wore a Chinese designer to an event celebrating China’s influence on fashion. While many outfits bordered on the culturally insensitive or, at worst, confused Japanese style with Chinese style, Rihanna nailed it and bought one of China’s most successful couturiers, Guo Pei, into the Western spotlight.

Christian Louboutin in Bhutan

Usually the king of the stiletto, Christian Louboutin turned his crafting hand to wedges this year. Inspired by the Buddhist kingdom of Butan in the Himalayas, each hand crafted shoe features beautiful artwork inspired by the culture and is being produced in a highly limited run of 1,200 pairs. Truly wearable art. The best part about this exclusive collection is that it is being made in Bhutan as well. The collaboration between the designer and the country’s School of Artisans means that it is not just borrowing from a culture, but giving back to it as well. The process was also filmed for a TV documentary which aired in the UK this year, further educating the world about this unique nation, and the shoes will go on sale next year.

Still from Channel 4’s ‘Christian Louboutin: The World’s Most Luxurious Shoes’

The Founding of the Arab Fashion Council

In April this year, the founding of the the Arab Fashion Council was announced, with Cavaliere Mario Boselli, President of Camera della Moda di Milano, as its honorary President. Its aim is not only to promote and develop Arab fashion across the 22 countries it represents, but also to raise their profile internationally. In October this year, the first Arab Fashion Week took place (following on immediately from Paris Fashion Week) and was attended by top international industry figures, including CEO of the British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush. Arab Fashion Week will take place twice a year and workshops, competitions and seminars organized by the not-for-profit Arab Fashion Council will take place throughout the year. This could be a game changer for Arab fashions’ place in the world.

Valentino SS16

We tried to pick one stand out collection that epitomized the ‘cross-culture’ trend in design as seen during fashion season last September, but the fact that there were just so many is, in fact, why it is such a trend. From Indonesian beach vibes at Isa Arfen to Prabal Gurung’s ode to his Nepalese heritage and Thom Browne’s creative take on the kimonos and dragon motifs for men, anything went. There was one show however that sparked debate like no other and for that reason, makes our list. Creative Directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took Valentino on a journey through tribal Africa for SS16. As the show reports came in, some responded in outrage at this crass, primitive and stereotyped image of Africa, while others hailed it as a celebration of the continents deep-rooted culture in prints, beadwork and craftsmanship. Both make valid points.

As we head into a new year and continue to navigate a world of travel, migration and multiculturalism, our wish for 2016 is that these debates continue; that we preserve tradition, yet challenge stereotypes, inspire our minds with exploring new territory, but never steal from those who reside in them. The world is a fast-changing place and though African-inspired fashion collections are nothing new, a world where African countries have their own established fashion industries and an awareness of cultural colonialism is, and that has repercussions on what is and isn’t acceptable anymore.

Who knows what multi-cultural triumphs and fails lie ahead this year but, no matter what, let’s keep talking about it.

Words: Olivia Pinnock

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