18 October 2018
Don’t momentarily lose your mind – or your own sense of style – by dressing like a giant cliché just because you’re at a festival. Contemplate who you are, be guided by trends that run deeper than colours or fabrics, and flaunt your fantasy self.
At Littlegig, for 24-hours, men/women/womxn aged between 21 and 73 escape in their own personal way(s)…some quietly while sipping a single malt whiskey and listening to a blues act; others gastronomically – immersing themselves in a multiple-course forest feast prepared by one of the country’s top chefs; many through dance – including one well-known gallerist who doesn’t leave his spot at the front-left of the electronic stage. But almost everyone escapes sartorially.
There’s a concept store at Littlegig, where we sell one-off festival fashion designs. It’s wildly popular, and curating the space and collection has been a fascinating learning about human behavior, which contrary to what many may think, doesn’t change when you’re at a festival, but rather is amplified.
I have a friend who, as the wife of one of the country’s top event producers and DJs, has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in clubs and at festivals around the world. She’s also a breast cancer survivor who lives cleanly, so I always pay special attention to her festival feedback – experienced, insightful and sober as it is. A fellow sceptic occasionally drawn to esoteria, she introduced me to Caroline Myss’ archetypes – the creative, the athlete, the rebel, the visionary, the royal, the performer, the tastemaker, the caregiver, the spiritualist, the explorer, the advocate, the intellectual.
The archetypes relate to identity and self-expression, and filter into every aspect of our lives, including how we shop and what we wear. Our fashion store in the first year, my friend told me, catered to only one or two archetypes. She had cash burning a hole in her pocket, but as an advocate and intellectual (with great style) rather than a creative/royal/ tastemaker, there was nothing that appealed to her.
I found this simple insight quite profound. Connecting with our archetype is a bridge to who we really are. Which is surely the purpose of music festivals, if one considers that before they became commercial beasts, they started out as alternative spaces of self-expression. It is precisely because most festivals have strayed so far from this original spirit, that festival dressing has become predictable – a whole lot of looks blended together in a clichéd mishmash of crochet, fringing, feathers and floral crowns.
Now, when we’re curating the store, we try to lightly hold all the archetypes in our minds, from the ‘royal’ comfortable in sequins and chainmail, to the ‘advocate’ drawn to simplicity and quality. Because the most inspiring events – for me anyway – appeal to as many different archetypes as possible. God bless Cape Town creatives, but they’re best when combined with farmers, intellectuals and of course rebels.
My friend (and Women24 editor) Zanele Kumalo said to me after the first Littlegig – to which she’d worn a Rich Mnisi Japanese-inspired denim wrap dress: ‘white people are happy to show off much more skin than we are.’ Three years into festival fashion-watching, I don’t agree that we’re as comfortable with the level of exposure we display. I think many of us are taking the easy route: tried-and-tested impactful festival look = lots of flesh. I fly the flag for body confidence, but the everything-on-show look – especially beyond a certain age – is as tired as its owner probably is. (Incidentally, the show-stealers for me from Littlegig 2017 were 2 men – lifestyle influencer Seth Shezi and his friend Stanley Gabriel – in matching floor-length cotton kaftans, one red, one yellow, made for them by a Ghanaian designer. Supremely comfortable yet dead sexy in the festival context.)
I end with a word on trend, which if you truly love fashion, will also inform your self-expression, whether you know it or not. Lindy Cohen is a trend forecaster and fashion designer (@lindy_cohen and @xube_design) whose style I will probably spend the rest of my days trying unsuccessfully to emulate. I have always been fascinated by her trend forecasting process, which is about intuitively decoding images and messages that come from potentially anywhere – research, nature, social and political movements, art galleries, dusty streets – and predicting if and how they will play themselves out in fashion. This is what she says is coming our way:
*There should be no such thing as a festival fashion look. Instead, flaunt the fantasy side of your archetype.
*Athletic squad…our obsession with logos and health continue. Inspiration: Hood by Air
*Activism, disillusion with hierarchy, the T-shirt as voting ground, the future is female. Inspiration: Jenny Holzer
*With climate change people are looking to rural entities, with rough-hewn textures and functional shapes. Inspiration: Dolce & Gabbana basketry; Delpozo headwear
*Shape shifting is a huge trend that we’re not yet seeing a lot of yet, and one which ties in with gender neutrality. We are moving away from tight and figure-hugging towards using shapes that celebrate other parts of the body. Inspiration: Rei Kawakubo for Commes des Garcons
*Hair as a sculptural element. If you want to stand out in a crowd you need to change your silhouette. Inspiration: Nagi Noda; Tressé Agoche
Before you next escape to the dust with your tent and your dancing shoes, pick a trend that speaks to you, and channel your archetype. (Take the archetype test here.) As a confirmed ‘royal’, I’ll be the one in gold.