Each Maasai has about six outfits. Men wear robes – we call them shuka – in different colours and patterns. You can wear whichever colour combination you like, as long as there is red in it. Red is very important. I’m wearing two shuka tied together now. It has to be long, to cover the body but not so long that you can’t run in it. Would I ever wear Western clothes? Well maybe if I went to Europe.
‘As a young teenager I was already making all these garments, clothes for a much more glamorous life than the one I had. I remember my sister being really freaked out and telling our mother, “You must stop her, she looks like a fool. I’m not going to school with her.” I’d made myself this version of a Yves Saint Laurent gypsy costume with a big flowing skirt and a peasant blouse. I really must have looked like a freak. But both my mom and my grandmother kept encouraging me. My mom had this famous saying – “Let’s go shopping for ideas!” It was basically window shopping.’
A conversation with the family behind Manny Gammage’s Texas Hatters Inc.
‘I’ve seen wills being written up about hats. Once I saved a family from not talking to each other, because two grandsons were fighting and both thought they had right to the hat. They didn’t want the money or the land, because the hat was a status symbol of an elder. They asked me to make another one just like it. I made an exact copy, but then they got shuffled and I couldn’t tell which one was real. They both came and both offered money to me to let them know what the real hat was, but I honestly couldn’t tell them. They both have his hat over the mantelpiece.’
A conversation with three generations of quinceañera
The young quinceañera is seemingly always in a ball gown. She is in pink, green, blue or other pastel colour, festooned and bejewelled, and with a large skirt that sways in a way that affirms the hooped crinoline underneath. She is beautiful and brimming with excitement for her impending journey into womanhood. Her mother typically accompanies her, helping her with her dress and fixing her hair just so as the photographer captures the moment in front of a city’s landmarks.
A Conversation with Virgil Abloh
‘I did a fashion show recently called “Nothing New.” It was based on criticism I got from another designer. So I took that statement and tried to unravel it and make it into a question. Does fashion have to be new? What is new anyway? Does fashion have to be new to be valid and relevant and important? People often lob ‘it’s been done before’ as a critique but without asking themselves those questions. “Newness” has become the barometer by which we judge things in fashion. “New” is a farce to me. It’s a critique intended to keep people like me out.’
A Conversation with Miuccia Prada
‘Censorship is huge now. Basically you can’t say anything interesting on the record. I did an interview with a very important journalist some time ago, but then I told him to cancel eighty percent of what I’d said. I know that makes me the censor but I don’t want to ruin my life over an interview. I have responsibilities. It’s hard because whatever I do, someone ends up being upset. A company our size has to think about everything. I made the choice not to be niche, only for the sophisticated few, so I have to accept the limitations of that choice.’
A Conversation with Demna Gvasalia
‘I like playing roles; it makes me feel safe. Authenticity for me perhaps means something different than for most people. I don’t have one interpretation of authenticity when it comes to style; I like moving between them. When I wear a sweatshirt with “Monoprix” on it, what am I signalling? Am I saying it’s cool to work at a supermarket or am I making people ask themselves why I’m wearing a Monoprix logo, when I could be wearing one from Balenciaga? Well, you tell me. Obviously everybody knows that I don’t work at Monoprix, well everyone who knows me does anyway. If a stranger sees me in the street wearing my Monoprix jumper, they might think I really do work there and I quite like that.’
A Conversation with Mohammad Saeed
‘Clothes are very important because people always look at what you wear. They don’t think about who you are, they only think about what you wear. I don’t like it, but I accept it. When I dress up, to go to a restaurant or to work, people look at me well, but if I’ve just woken up and haven’t made an effort they will judge me. They look at me like I’m bad. I don’t really like my clothes now, but I have to wear what I have because I’m living in a camp. I have clothes in Syria, in Turkey, in Greece, everywhere. The only clothes I miss are the clothes I was wearing when the bomb struck and I was hurt. I asked my mum to save them, and she did. One day I will come back for them.’
A Conversation with Abdul-Wahed Daaboul
‘All my clothes were taken: my jacket, a T-shirt that my best friend gave me before I left Syria with “Lamborghini” written on it. They were my favourite clothes. When my backpack was stolen I had to buy everything new: I bought a jacket and a pair of jeans for €50. In the camps they gave clothes away for free but I couldn’t take them. I don’t know why. Maybe because I had some money, and I felt I should buy my own clothes. There were so many others without money; they should get their clothes for free, not me.’
A Conversation with Bushra Al-Fusail
‘I only have a few things from home now. One is a cotton scarf, it’s black with a red stripe. In Yemen I would have worn it to cover my hair, but here I wear it around my neck. I have a silver necklace too, with a dark red stone. I wear that a lot, though I often take it off when I work with the Yemeni community here in New York. They are often simple people, and they’re not used to seeing a Yemeni woman without an abaya or a hijab. Many Yemenis don’t want to change, even when they’ve left Yemen. The Yemeni community in New York is very strict, so I don’t want them to identify me as Yemeni necessarily. It’s funny: I’m so attached to Yemenis on the one hand, but I also want my space.’
Conversations on the Transformative Quality of Ritual Dress
‘Within the context of a public event, clothes help to endow the wearer with a greater sense of themselves. You find yourself behaving differently when wearing a costume and you are often less inhibited. The costume helps to give you a new persona to project yourself from. With a ritual, a simple black robe does the opposite and is often worn as a form of anonymity. I find elaborate robes project ego and when working in a ritual context the will needs to be focused on the job in hand.’
A Conversation with Elizabeth Sweetheart Rosenthal
‘My mother died a couple years ago at one hundred and four, and she had macular degeneration. But she could see in her periphery and she could always see me. We’d go walking together. She loved me being green. I’ve had a long life and have been through a lot and have my design studio and this and that. But when people see me they just see the Green Lady. That’s fine.’