Neo-Vintage Patterns and Toile de Jouy

“Fashion is a cycle” Who in this world has never heard about this well known catch phrase? Well, as any phrase, it remains a guideline and we could be amazed sometimes how these guidelines shape our perception of the world especially in Fashion. By studying historical fashion styles, new generations feed their minds with ideas and reinterpret these styles with their fresh vision. If there is a cycle, it is necessarily reshaped by the new generations. Nothing new about that. This often concludes the debate around the so called “cycle issue”. Wearing vintage clothes is one of the main trends that popped up these last two years and this taste for vintage items recalled the “cycle issue”.


Paisley pattern

Let me invite you now to ignore this debate and rather to ask yourself why people wear vintage clothes. In order to deal with the question, let’s set our frame of study into pattern fashion styles. Why pattern fashion style? Well, take a walk in Seoul and have a look on the number of pieces of clothes with old fashioned patterns. A trend is coming and it is fairly easy to predict how this trend will soon evolve.

Among old fashioned patterns, one grew particularly in popularity in the 17th century. This pattern is the famous paisley pattern. It is known to have an Indian/Persian origin and it was first introduced in Europe by the East Indian Company. In India, the pattern is associated to Hinduism while in Persia it was related to a Zoroastrian symbol meaning “life and eternity”. The pattern became soon so popular that the supply could not match the demand. European manufacturers were then kindly asked to develop techniques to reproduce the pattern via hand-looms. The challenge was somehow fulfilled and more paisley clothes were available on the market. Anyway, the interesting thing is in this short story is that Fashion influenced a technique which in return influenced Fashion. In fact the hand looms were then able to manufacture complex pattern such as European symbols, a good example being the Toile de Jouy manufactured in France. Toile de Jouy is often a monochromatic and depicts landscapes, farmers or workers day to day life. A new trend was born. Why then such old fashioned patterns are currently trendy in Seoul and to some extent in South Korea and the Far East? Examples of this trend are legion in South Korea in pop music such as the bands 4Minute and Mighty Mouth and in cinema with for instance Sang Soo Im‘s last movie: The Taste of Money.


Toile de jouy

Patterns unlike colors and shapes are able to convey more complicated messages. Three colors such as red, white and blue have their own meaning. Moreover, by combining them in a specific spatial order they can representcountries like France, The Netherlands or Russia. Tribes, kings and merchants understood that well at the dawn of the civilizations. Few people could read but most of them could gather easily for example behind a banner. Nowadays patterns reveal at least to which fashion group one wants to belong to. Paisley pattern, in the Far East and in Europe, is considered as an exotic pattern. A person wearing this pattern will be seen at first glance as independent and openminded.

The strength of patterns in Fashion does not stop here. A myriad of patterns has a long historical background and fashion designers can either embrace it or reinterpret it. As simple example, the Fleur-de-lis was the symbol of French royalty. By choosing this pattern of a piece of clothes, even cheap, it automatically depicts some kind of uniqueness and one’s wish to belong to the noble part of the society. By being a French symbol it also recalls some clichés about France such as Romanticism and taste for Art. Several layers of interpretation lay then in a simple pattern. After the historical background, geographical origin is one of them. Another possible interpretation is the wealth associated to the pattern which is the most typical message conveyed by a fashion trend mark that does not belong to the fast fashion niche. Louis Vuitton, by its symbol recalls quality and high class status by its long experience in fashion design for leather goods. Most of their handbags obey to the following specific design frame: they are made of leather and the two letters L and V are printed on it. Simple and efficient. The success of these handbags is mainly to due such simple pattern.

4Minute - Volume Up -snapshot

4Minute in their music video Volume up


In The Taste of Money, Hyo-Jin Kim is wearing a dress with typical modern patterns.

A brand new approach in the current fashion for pattern is actually what was previously described with the Toile de Jouy. Reproducing these patterns on clothes is popular but the innovation is the reinterpretation. In this globalization eras patterns from different periods, or regions can be associated to create unique items. South Korea has many advantages to make a breakthrough in the world fashion market with this specific trend. Western fashion designers are still discovering Korean Culture today and to some extent Far East Culture and they may use their codes to create new western fashion clothes. To convince yourself just have look at the number of traditional Korean patterns such as the Dancheong. Conversely South Korean fashion designers are well aware of their own traditions. Besides, South Korea has a worldwide spread diaspora and it gives them some awareness about the Western Culture. By mixing identities and ideas there is no doubt that Korea will play a more and more important role in world fashion and the neovintage patterns are about to be one of the most striking examples of such a breakthrough .


Dancheong, traditional decoration for wood building


Some traditional Korean patterns


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