She wears her jewellery like her armor…
Her face holds a warning…
With her hair running wild…
She wraps her Shuka around her body, like a shroud..
And takes the leap…
Some say, ‘you learn about the culture of a place through their food’… I say the same about ‘fashion’.
You’ve probably read this line on my home page time and again as just a line, but it’s a part of my belief system and something that actually inspired me to start pinkpeppercorn! Through all my travel, my interactions with people from various cultures and the diverse experiences that I’ve had in the last so many years… this is one thing that I‘ve truly come to believe…!
When we look at the native outfits of other cultures, we often find them amusing, fascinating or ridiculous even… but that’s because we seldom pause and wonder why!? Why is it what it is? Is it just fashion, or does it mean something? And how can it inspire us?
Forget other cultures, we often don’t even pause to understand our own native attire! Why do we wear the sari? Why a salwar kameez? What were the origins? What do they signify about our ancestral lives? 90% of us, don’t know and what’s saddening is, that we don’t even care!
This post however, is not about Indian attire… it’s about understanding and getting inspired by the fashion and culture of Masaai tribe of East Africa.
The Maasai, known for their culture and heritage, are a tribal population who still lives in the forests of Kenya and Tanzania… close to nature and to the wild!
In recent years, the Maasai tribal clothing and fashion has become an absolute favorite of the global fashion industry, with almost every big brand from Louis Vuitton to our home grown Hidesign, all launching Maasai inspired collections!
So, here’s my look inspired by the Maasai, and created using authentic, traditional, handcrafted items by the Masaai people themselves.
The Shuka… is the checkered African blanket make of thick layers of cotton women together. I’m sure you all find these checks in red, blue and black pretty familiar, especially if you throwback to Louis Vuitton’s AW 2012 collection.
This African blanket is something that the men wear like long robes when they travel for hunting and other expeditions.
In spite of being made in cotton they are extremely warm and very very sturdy… hence, they are enough to protect the nomadic people in the harsh conditions and climate.
It can double up as a blanket, a shawl, a wrap-around skirt, a sarong and in my case, as a dress too!
This red and black shuka with small checks is from the Maasai Market in Kenya.
My Look: I’ve draped it like an off-shoulder dress paired with opaque black stalkings and heeled booties in animal print, to create the right balance of fashionable and the wild! Have also thrown over a tribal, embroidered jacket from the Trafaulic range of Zara, for effect!
This Shuka is actually great because it can be used not just as a blanket while traveling (in long flights etc.) but also as a shawl, a sarong, a dress or even a throw that’ll add a spark of culture to your bedroom!
The jewelry I’m wearing here is a classic jewelry set that the Maasai brides wear. I have a head-piece too, which I’m not wearing here but with that, it would’ve been a complete Maasai bridal look! 😉
The jewelry, which was traditionally made of natural materials such as bones, wood and stones… is now made up of glass beads in various colours, thanks to the European influence in the 19th century. These beads in different colours, and patterns all usually signify something…
For example, black is to ward off evil and signifies the hardships that all people must endure, red signifies courage and strength, blue is symbolic of the sky and infinity, white stands for purity and green, is for nature…! Hence, each piece of jewelry, which the Maasai women hand-make themselves has a lot of thought and meaning behind it… which they believe protects, blesses and reminds the wearer of the meaning of life.
My Look: Mr. Wolf got me these from one of his trips to Kenya and I absolutely fell in love with the thought, intricacy and details in every piece. Interestingly while the necklaces are part of the bridal set, the wrist-cuff is also something that the Maasai men wear.
Honestly, I’d love to wear this jewelery on a plain white dress or a white colour cotton saree! I think it’ll look gorgeous!
You can actually get authentic Maasai jewellery in India, from a brand called AnaRae. I saw them at a pop up exhibition and realized that they’re all about handmade Maasai and African jewelry… and if you’re loving what I’m wearing here, I’m sure you’ll love them too.
One of the most significant things about the Maasai or any tribal culture, for that matter, is the makeup! They’re all known to paint their faces with different motifs and markings! Ever wondered why?
Two major reasons…
First, markings are often representative of the tribe or village that they belong to. The symbols and markings help identify your own people when travelling far and wide into the wilderness, and in encounters with other tribes.
Markings also distinguish men from boys, women from girls, men from women, and so on and so forth.
The second reason, is that by painting their face, they try to camouflage themselves and make themselves look intimidating so as to scare wild animals and other outsiders away.
They obviously use organic plant based colors to dress themselves up… I have however, had to make do with make-up brands 😉
I’ve used Lakme iconic kajal pencil to do the black markings.
For the eyes, Sugar cosmetics Stroke of genius Heavy duty black to black kohl 01 and Sugar cosmetics Arrested for Overstay Waterproof Eye liner 01.
The Blue mascara is the Beyond Blue Mascara from Benefit Cosmetics and for the Ombre lips, I’ve used Dior’s Rouge Dior 999 Matte and Bobbi Brown black mahogany 49.
Oh! And by the way, gender neutrality in fashion probably originated here… because men too, wear makeup and jewelry… and look gorgeous in them! 😉
Hope you enjoyed reading this hope you liked the look.
Do leave your comments about the look and the concept… I’d love to know what you think!
PS: Photography by Sonalee Das