Festival fashion can be used as a vehicle for escape, you just need to find your archetype first
Words: Georgia Black | Images: Supplied
Don’t momentarily lose your mind – or your own sense of style – by dressing like a giant cliché just because you’re at a festival. Contemplate who you are, be guided by trends that run deeper than colours or fabrics, and flaunt your fantasy self.
Full disclosure: I own a festival. For 24-hours, men/women/womxn aged between 21 and 73 escape in their own personal way(s)… some quietly while sipping a single malt whiskey and listening to a blues act; others gastronomically - immersing themselves in a multiple-course forest feast prepared by one of the country’s top chefs; many through dance - including one well-known gallerist who doesn’t leave his spot at the front-left of the electronic stage. But almost everyone escapes sartorially.
There’s a concept store at Littlegig, where we sell one-off festival fashion designs. It’s wildly popular, and curating the space and collection has been a fascinating learning about human behavior, which contrary to what many may think, doesn’t change when you’re at a festival, but rather is amplified.
I have a friend who, as the wife of one of the country’s top event producers and DJs, has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in clubs and at festivals around the world. She’s also a breast cancer survivor who lives cleanly, so I always pay special attention to her festival feedback - experienced, insightful and sober as it is. A fellow sceptic occasionally drawn to esoteria, she introduced me to Carolyn Myss’ archetypes – the creative, the athlete, the rebel, the visionary, the royal, the performer, the tastemaker, the caregiver, the spiritualist, the explorer, the advocate, the intellectual.
The archetypes relate to identity and self-expression, and filter into every aspect of our lives, including how we shop and what we wear. Our fashion store in the first year, my friend told me, catered to only one or two archetypes. She had cash burning a hole in her pocket, but as an advocate and intellectual (with great style) rather than a creative/royal/ tastemaker, there was nothing that appealed to her.
I found this simple insight quite profound. Connecting with our archetype is a bridge to who we really are. Which is surely the purpose of music festivals, if one considers that before they became commercial beasts, they started out as alternative spaces of self-expression. It is precisely because most festivals have strayed so far from this original spirit, that festival dressing has become predictable - a whole lot of looks blended together in a clichéd mishmash of crochet, fringing, feathers and floral crowns.
Now, when we’re curating the store, we try to lightly hold all the archetypes in our minds, from the ‘royal’ comfortable in sequins and chainmail, to the ‘advocate’ drawn to simplicity and quality. Because the most inspiring events – for me anyway - appeal to as many different archetypes as possible. God bless Cape Town creatives, but they’re best when combined with farmers, intellectuals and of course rebels.
My friend (and Women24 editor) Zanele Kumalo said to me after the first Littlegig – to which she’d worn a Rich Mnisi Japanese-inspired denim wrap dress: ‘white people are happy to show off much more skin than we are.’ Three years into festival fashion-watching, I don’t agree that we’re as comfortable with the level of exposure we display. I think many of us are taking the easy route: tried-and-tested impactful festival look = lots of flesh. I fly the flag for body confidence, but the everything-on-show look – especially beyond a certain age – is as tired as its owner probably is. (Incidentally, the show-stealers for me from Littlegig 2017 were 2 men - lifestyle influencer Seth Shezi and his friend Stanley Gabriel - in matching floor-length cotton kaftans, one red, one yellow, made for them by a Ghanaian designer. Supremely comfortable yet dead sexy in the festival context.)
Before you next escape to the dust with your tent and your dancing shoes, pick a trend that speaks to you, and channel your archetype. (Take the archetype test here.) As a confirmed ‘royal’, I’ll be the one in gold.
Littlegig Festival is on 17-18 February 2018 in Stellenbosch.