Two tribes

So, I’ve wracked my brains, but can’t honestly think of a time when I’ve ‘done’ tribal prints and they’ve actually looked good. There’s just something, well, Primarkian about them. Perhaps if I could afford couture (I cannae), I would have a different take, but clothes with tribal prints just call to mind Saturday afternoons hanging around in Mark One (before it became MK One – who were they kidding?) when I was 13. Even then I thought tribal prints were tacky, and I was chipping about toon in bleached drainpipes, polyvelts and a donkey jacket.

Another thing I can’t really get with is clashing tribals. Even on the pages of a glossy, tiger print pants, an African-inspired shirt and a paint-splattered waistcoat looks bonkers. The model may be exquisitely beautiful, but she ain’t good looking enough to divert attention from the fact she looks like she’s rolled around in a jumble sale. Eyes right for photographic evidence.

Perhaps I’s missing the point. According to elle.com’s Anne Slowey:

‘This season, Ohne Titel’s Flora Gill and Alexa Adams took their inspiration from Egyptian wall paintings of the New Kingdom (1570–1070 b.c.).’

Hmmmm, right. And she continues:

‘My favorite tribal references were Nicolas Ghesquière’s hard-nosed versions at Balenciaga. His neo-nomadic tough-chic attitude was brightened by a print mimicked by the rolled weave strips of Pierre Hardy’s brilliantly woven boots (commissioned by Ghesquière), which themselves were fashioned after a Masai warrior’s necklace.’


I think that’s the problem with this tribal malarkey. It feels as though everyone is making too much effort to justify its existence. It’s drowning in pretension (yet readily available in Peacocks). Apart from the chosen few who’ve got oodles of loolah to spunk on their tribal gowns, it doesn’t look very nice – and unless you really are a Masai warrior (if you are, bloody good luck to you) tribal fashion doesn’t cut the mustard down Balham High Road. The weather’s all wrong, and that’s just for starters.

If I had to wear it, I would keep it to the minimum – and, whatever the magazines are telling me, I would never try to mix ‘n’ match. Sometimes, even I must break free of the hive fashion mind.

If you’d like to join me in my act of rebellion, I think we could just about cope with this Antik Batik Dress which would work with colour pop heels.

And this Jigsaw tribal skirt can be traded off with a plain tee and dress-down sandals.

Down the beach, tribal prints are far more acceptable and this skimpy bikini from ASOS has definitely got it goin’ on.

You could also play it super-safe with a cheeky hint of the trend; these KG sandals have just enough of a tribal feel, as does this techno tribal scarf from Oasis.

But whatever you buy during these (strictly limited) times of tribal fever, do be aware that it’s likely to hit the sale rail before the thermometer has tipped 20 degrees. Just sayin’.

At a push, Dries-Van-Noten makes it look good:

Written by Johanna Payton