Africa and Bavaria in Creative Appropriation Processes
Tradition seeks to re-invent itself, and not only in Bavaria. The dirndl is celebrating its triumph not only in regional Bavarian-Austrian versions, but in cross-over with modern high fashion and African wax print fabrics. “Oktoberfest” goes global.
D’Urban Dirndl, Summer 2013 | Photo: © Claudia Riedel When things get serious in Munich and the Oktoberfest – the national buzz-fest – arrives, then not only do the locals don Tracht, but also visitors from around the world, to experience the “real Wiesn feeling” in a kind of camouflage. Then the dirndl tradition produces colourful variants: from Bavarian kitsch to haute couture. However, two fashion labels in Munich and Berlin ventured to liven up the traditional cuts with African ideas.
Urban African dirndlsD’Urban Dirndl, Summer 2013 | Photo ©: Claudia Riedel No concessions to “Bavarian” clichés here, but instead an urban naturalness and elegance characterise costume designer Eveline Stösser’s apron dresses. D’Urban Dirndl, the name of her label, lets the South African city, the dirndl and urbanity harmonise with each other, and her dresses give voice to this, too. During her many trips to Africa, the Berlin designer noticed that European and African fashion are linked in a great variety of ways and that African women’s fashion shows distinct borrowings from colonial-era fashion.
NOH NEE – Dirndl à l’Africaine, Summer 2013 | Photo ©: Patricia Ostburg This gave her the idea to combine two fashion phenomena from the same era and from two different continents: alpine cut and African textiles. D’Urban Dirndl was born, handmade and in limited editions, with which Eveline Stösser is stirring up the German dirndl market.
“The wax print radiates a special kind of joy in life, it’s pure cotton, and therefore pleasant to wear even in a hot beer tent,” explains Stösser. And then she mentions another important factor that could explain the “Tracht” hype at the Oktoberfest in recent years: the dirndl cut highlights the wearer’s femininity: décolletés, narrow waists and wide skirts are seldom used any longer in current fashion. “In addition to modern, comfortable and practical fashion, there seems to be a great need among women to underscore their femininity in such an innocuous and natural way – at least now and then,” laughs Stösser.
A gift of GodNOH NEE – Dirndl à l’Africaine, Summer 2013 | Photo ©: Patricia Ostburg The lively fusion of African wax prints and “echt Bajuwarisch” cuts is also the business concept of two sisters from Cameroon who have made their home in Munich, Rahmée Wetterich and Marie Darouiche. With their label Noh Nee – Dirndl à l’Africaine, they combine the wealth of patterns and and colourful expressiveness of African fabrics with the typical dirndl cut of the 1950’s. The resulting Colourmix“ is more than merely colourful, it stands instead for creative exchange between world cultures without denying its own roots. People will get to know each other create new things and see their traditions in a new light, emphasises Rahmée Wetterich. In Swahili, Noh Nee means gift of God and of course, each dirndl by Noh Nee is one-of-a-kind.
Contemporary and cosmopolitanNOH NEE – Dirndl à l’Africaine, Summer 2013 | Photo ©: Patricia Ostburg The dresses are made of premium African fabrics, modern, intercultural and cosmopolitan. The accessories are exotically playful: instead of a pretzel or gingerbread look, sequins and cowrie shells adorn the bodices. Noh Nee’s aprons are sewn in part in a social project to support women in Benin. One day, thus the two sisters’ dream, a complete dirndl will be tailored by African women – but this still requires more guidance from Marie. The fabric selection is also hand-picked, adapted to German tatse and skin colour, and the resonance is correspondingly positive – not only in Munich.
Creative processes of appropriationNOH NEE – Dirndl à l’Africaine, Summer 2013 | Photo ©: Patricia Ostburg The mixing of traditions reveals the tradition of mixing with its complex creative processes of appropriation, since the African wax print fabrics originally came from The Netherlands, where they are still produced for the African market.
But the special look originally derives from the batik tradition of the Dutch colony of Java, today’s Indonesia. Manufactured mechanically, the fabrics from Holland arrived on the west coast of Africa, where they were in turn adapted to regional African taste. The extravagant designs arise not only from local African traditions or from Islamic geometric patterns, but take their borrowings from everyday life, music, and not least from ironic, tongue-in-cheek pop art. They are used today by designers both inside and outside of Africa.
NOH NEE – Dirndl à l’Africaine, Summer 2013 | Photo ©: Patricia Ostburg Whether D’Urban Dirndl or Noh Nee – with their African-Bajuwarisch fashion fusions these designers have not only landed a hit at the Oktoberfest, the stylish dirndls African-style are suitable for every day wear as well. Without the apron or the blouse, they are super-wearable apart from the Wiesn buzz as a lively summer dress with an elegant belt.