INDIVIDUALISM, INDEPENDENCE, please, NO LABELS! When you are of mixed culture, how do you define and identify yourself without the input of society? Many designers use their collections to make socially relevant statements and offer storytelling through a fashion lens we don’t often see. Having a bicultural identity presents authenticity and a unique ability in the creative process to highlight both cultures – adapting to modern times while preserving the history of traditional methods, textiles, and silhouettes. Fashion has the ability to transform identity and culture, even if it is multicultural.
Chinese-Vietnamese born, Julia Zhou, who was raised in Germany, built a collection entitled “Map of the Soul” to fuse Asian and western culture from her own experience of living in both worlds. Challenged with developing a collection that was rooted in traditional looks with a contemporary statement, she came up against conflicting views of a modern western look versus the preservation of her Asian heritage. In “mapping her soul”, she bridged the two worlds using her own creative process of self-discovery.
The “self-discovery” unpacked an internal reflection on how she and society view ourselves, how we may hide or expose different personas as society dictates. Zhou explains the backstory of this body of work in the designer summary at Neo.Fashion.de. “The idea of “Map of the Soul” is to create a clear consciousness of what is going on inside the human psyche. Everyone wants to embrace their true personality, but it is always hidden between layers of their persona. Escaping the idea of being an individual in a society that expects us to follow the same rules and have the same routines. Embracing our inner child and the part that is rooted in our culture, our heritage.”
The look is neither feminine nor masculine, but represents a feminine aesthetic. She describes the collection as “a symbiosis of dynamic silhouettes, that do not hug the natural female body, but are still considered feminine through shape and styling. It is the embodiment of my perception, which has shaped my personal path through experiences in my childhood through to adulthood.”
Mixed identity is the message behind Maital Levitan’s body of work, Culture Osmosis. Seattle, Washington born, raised in Israel, and currently based in Rome, Levitan, who is of mixed heritage, says we are all connected and part of a global tribe but are challenged in finding our own way in the world, searching for meaning, belonging, and freedom. “Being born in the USA and moving to Israel, having a “global family” and a mixed identity, were inspirations for this collection. I combined the shapes of my traditional origin – Poland with the modern tailoring of the 50’s back in NYC.” The mix of textures through multiple fabric patterns and fabric blocking can be viewed as a transformation of becoming one identity.
Artists, designers, and creators go through a process of cognitive, conscious (or unconscious), philosophical, and sometimes theoretical discovery that is experimental in getting to the core of messaging. This artistic practice brings meaning, purpose, and substance to their work (whether the viewer gets it or not). In fashion, this practice is not a one-off design or commodity to be tossed after consumption. “Map of the Soul” was a personal journey of identity, which many multicultural humans experience. Zhou, Levitan, and many others create a space to talk about how fashion can be used as visual culture to influence a society and as a tool to embrace one’s identity.
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