In the last few years the rise of popularity of electronic music has brought festival culture into everyday life. This year #festivalfashion has been blowing up the internet and huge corporations like H&M have hopped on the bandwagon developing lines specifically marketed to attendees of Coachella, with the popular festival even achieving credit on the tag. But, what is real festival fashion? It goes deeper than just a cute romper and a sunhat and delves into true self expression. At the festival you combine unique pieces which allow you to be the truest form of yourself. Then, you want to be able to take individual pieces, like a handmade hood or sequined kimono, and wear it in everyday life to remind you of who you really are and how you want to truly be in the world. Festival fashion is a return to individuality through shared culture.
With the Etsy revolution it has become easier than ever to find the artisans who make this couture style festival attire. Yet, ordering things online is always so tricky. How can you tell that the quality of the clothing can last through multiple weekends of dust, sweat, and dancing? It is hard to trust that the clothing seen in a tiny photograph on your iPhone app is going to be worth the $50-$200 or more you could be paying for it. It helps to see the items in real life, to touch them, and to learn the inspiration behind the clothing.
Luckily I spent some serious time shopping at Lightning in a Bottle last month in Bradley California. This festival offered a Bazaar for festival goers to shop and barter with the artisans who made the clothing. One of a kind pieces were common from the Woogie to the Thunder stages. Each attendee added their own flare to the custom clothing they found. Walking through the festival one truly felt as if he/she had been dropped into a parallel universe where individuality was celebrated above all else: if you wanted to be a rabbit you were a rabbit. No questions asked. Walking from store to store surrounded by parasols and people one realized that this is how these artisans give back to their community. It is about buying clothing which is made sustainably and by people who are making fair wages. It is about encouraging a culture of community. You are not just paying for a shirt, you’re paying for the whole story.
This cute shop curated by Brenna Cavanaugh is run out of a retro trailer home which she is able to take all about the United States from festival to festival. The distinctive handmade denim jackets outside the door are what caught my eye. These signature jackets are made by hand by an artist in Santa Barbara, California. They feature artwork from Thai artists and are fair trade certified. They are the sort of piece that would wear well over a sassy bikini when the sun goes down in the desert or cover up a sundress on a normal night out in LA. It was in chatting with Brenna that I realized the true power of what shopping at a festival can do: “It’s this demand of I want I need it now. I created this [the movable boutique] because I love having a story behind what I wear. I love buying a necklace and getting a compliment. If you buy something at Forever 21 there’s no story behind it. Here shopping at the festival you get the whole story.” It was true, she could tell me all about the designers behind every article found in her boutique
Jackets: Website | @wildandfreejewelry
A staple of festival fashion will always be hats. Festival season always happens during the peak of summer and keeping one’s head cool will always be a concern. These hats designed by Andrew Wickens embody the entrepreneurial nature of millennial culture. The company, based out of Guadalajara and Oakland, was inspired by Andrew’s love of travel and design; curating this company was his way of establishing the international lifestyle he always dreamed of. This is reflected in his hats which feature fabrics from countries he has visited worldwide. I was struck by the hats made from Syrian tablecloths which linked the festival to the current global crisis. Buying a hat could symbolize supporting a culture and I heard the echo of Brenna reminding me that our shopping should tell a story. Unlike Andrew, I was not so surprised his hats had almost sold out. They were handsome and durable and would easily transfer from festival to the real world.
It was impossible not to run one’s hands over the silky kimonos and sequin encrusted pieces which drew one into Sharira’s LIB boutique. Her array of one of a kind “dreamcoats” truly are ethereal. Each coat is entirely unique and hand embroidered by women in Thailand. These pieces are so lightweight and breathable you barely notice it on your body. The stitching is also impeccable, so you wouldn’t have to worry about shedding sequins as you dance the night away. In the sunlight these pieces glow as if illuminated from within. The individuality of the pieces allows one to wear them time and time again without feeling as if they have become “stale” or “over-worn”. Frankly, I would be loathe to ever take it off! We are certainly looking forward to grand opening of the online store, sign up for her email list because these one of a kind kimonos will go fast.
People at festivals love onesies, and why not? They are durable, comfy, cool, and whimsy. They also allow this de gendered way of dressing which festival culture embraces with open arms. Warrior Within has a relationship with San Francisco based tie-dye company “Jammin on Hate” which provides artwork inspired by The Grateful Dead on many of the onesies. The wearer then becomes a walking frame for a piece of art. The company supports Lauren, on the companies employees said, “I’m so inspired when people go all out and own their true colors. These [onesies] make people feel good inside and get out in the world wearing something bold, feeling like a warrior within.”
Hoods were literally EVERYWHERE at LIB this past year and Cat handmade the sassiest ones. Her inspiration came from “really bad haircuts— no lie” and a wish to continue partying in this community. Color is certainly the perfect word to use to describe her hoods. They are made of bright durable fabric, so they won’t just flop over your head, but rest perfectly shading your face and neck from harmful rays. Then if you want, just let it hang from the classy gold chain around your neck and act as a scarf. These are certainly a festival essential. And her designs go way beyond hoods, her funky pants and footwear have also sold out on her website. We personally have our fingers crossed she pushes more color out very soon!
This shop absolutely blew me away. Each piece is made by hand and inspired by Marian’s contact dance background. “I lived in costumes and wanted to make something fun to dance in. Going to underground parties I was blown away this alternative community really existed. I wanted something I could really be tough on and that was really me; that tied into my beliefs about sustainable fabrics.” Unlike many costumes which feel grainy the material is soft as well as durable. The dress I purchased is made of cotton and bamboo and is soft, breathable, and flexible: perfect for the festival environment. Soft touches like funky patterned fabric or sexy black lace, on sleeves and hoods add a bit of flair to the pieces while retaining the earthy sustainable quality of the fabric. Many of her tops and dresses also feature hoods, which allow sun protection or the ability to get cozy during the cooler nights once you step off the dance floor. The way she weaves the fabric together up the back adds a bit of individual flair. Had I seen the dress I had purchased online I may have been nervous to spend the $130 on it, however, seeing the dress in person I knew I was getting the handmade piece as a steal. The dress hugged my curves without being too “clingy” and Marion was there guiding everyone in her shop along as they tried on clothes and sampled favorite dance moves.
So as you pull your outfits together for your next festival think: what is the story behind what I am wearing? Do I have a connection to the artisan who made this? Support our festival community and give back in order to give out that luminous you just twitching to be expressed through sustainable and fun fashion.