Heritage Style | Masai Plaids
Shukas, commonly referred to as Masai plaids, have increasingly provided inspiration for designers globally. Most recently, Louis Vuitton sent a slew of Masai-inspired plaids down the runway…only to be received by a bevy of praise and drawing continued attention towards this traditional East African fabric.
Characterized by an array of striped patterns and bold hues, often including reds and blues and reminiscent of plaid, Shukas are traditionally worn by Kenyan Masai during the day to shield the sun and at night to protect from the cold.
Shukas are worn draped around the body, with one end tossed over your shoulder. But as we’re about to see, both local and international designers have been inspired by this material and have contemporized its styling in their own right!
For his debut collection, Louis Vuitton’s recently appointed Style Director, Kim Jones, drew inspiration from his upbringing in Kenya. In particular, a Masai blanket that Jones kept as a reminder of his childhood inspired the blue and red plaid sent down the runway.
Blackbird Jeans emerged as a crowd favorite during Africa Fashion Week NY this past weekend. Kenyan designers, Zeddie and Sydney moved beyond their staple denim by mixing-and-matching dapper separates inspired by various Kenyan Shuka prints.
Thakoon opened up his AW11 runway show to a soundtrack of pulsating beats, vivid plaids and Victorian-esque draping. Inspired by the cross-over between Masai Warriors and Marie Antoinette, stating “They’re the same…just two different tribes”, Thakoon produced one of the most highly regarded collections of the season.
Swedish brand, Lagom, cites inspiration drawn from hues found in a Kenyan sunset. Combined with patterns inspired by the “Big 5″ and a medley of geometric shapes, Lagom’s SS11 collection incorporated Masai-inspired scarves draped as accessories.
Long Island Pulse Magazine, staying true to their name, traveled to Kenya to capture the beauty of Masai culture well before Masai-inspired plaids hit the runway in full throttle last season. Styled in contemporary womenswear brands including Mathew Williamson and Doucette Duvall, LI Pulse went to Cottars’ 1920′s style safari camps for their August 2010 “Exotic Autumn” editorial shoot.