Tory Burch S/S 2015: Ethnic Adventures, Origins and Influence

Tory Burch is a cultured woman. She said recently, “every collection that we do… is a lot about travel and different countries.” Her Spring/Summer 2015 collection is no different. Tory Burch showed off her newest designs in the hallways of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on Wednesday September 9, 2014 as part of New York Fashion Week. The collection was ethnically driven and inspired from two disparate regions of the globe. Tory Burch’s collection evokes the traditional textures and styles found among the Yoruba of West Africa as well as ancient Japan.


FFS_AS1_1024x1024Several pieces in the collection appear centered around a fabric called ashoke (pronounced ash-or-okay). Ashoke or aso-oke dates back several centuries to the early days of the Yoruba Kingdom. It comprises strands of textile woven into strips, which are then sewn together to make the fabric. It’s this technique that gives the fabric the vertically or horizontally aligned patterns. This would explain the strips and striped patterns running up and down, as well as left and right on the outfits in Tory Burch’s S/S 2015 collection. Another influence of this technique is frayed hemlines, which are also found in Tory’s collection.

Here’s a quote regarding how ashoke is made, from an African designer Adele Dejak:

Originally, the pieces were either deep indigo, a natural beige silk, or an imported magenta silk weave. Today, the strands of cotton, polyester, rayon, silk, lurex, and acrylic are all merged on narrow strip looms into long, thin pieces of fabric. The strips are sewn together to create a piece of fabric unique from all others ever created. At times, an artist doesn’t have quite enough of one strip, and will add a totally different one to even things up. In yet more artistic whimsy, pieces may come hemmed, partially hemmed, or totally unhemmed. The open work, embroidery, shine, design, textures, and color work together for a textile unlike any other that is impressive and artistic.

The Yoruba woman, and many women in Africa wear a top or blouse called the Buba. The Buba is usually a loose-fitted outfit that’s usually worn over a wrap-around midi-skirt.

The necklines of some of the outfits in the collection, particularly the needle point neck lines, can also be found in African men’s wear including the dashiki. It’s also a neckline found in tunics out of India. And, we know Tory loves her tunics.

Ashoke Yoruba Fashion
The Japanese influence in the S/S 2015 collection, although not as dominant as the ashoke, is even more evident. A couple of pieces use ancient Japanese vector patterns that are still widely used today. Specifically, Tory Burch used the Raimon or thunder pattern and a version of the Sayagata.

Japan Raimon Thunder Pattern

Tory Burch is a soft-spoken and charming lady. Her aura is one of mild manners and a gentle demeanor, and this collection like many before it, reflects that in its use of color. The colors are not loud and inane, but instead offer soft persuasion and seduction through warm earthy tones.

The best description suited for Tory Burch’s S/S 2015 collection, came not from a fashion critic but from WhoWhatWear’s sister site, DomaineHome. The site, which reviews stylish interior décor and home furnishing, published on the same day as the Tory Burch S/S 2015 runway showing, the following description:

We love the distinct look of Tory Burch’s boutiques where traditional elements and furnishings mix harmoniously with ethnic textiles, bold colors, glamorous accents… Like Burch’s clothes, the boutiques often feature a fearless mix of multiple patterns and prints. A unifying color scheme helps the diverse designs work well together without clashing. wasn’t far behind in its review of the collection:

Tory Burch’s global-inspired collection for S/S 15 is defined by minimalistic shapes in alternatively bold color or all-white. The shapes are chic and wearable, from shift dresses to pencil midi skirts, while subtle metallics and fringe detail add interest. Tory Burch clearly understands and delivers what stylish modern women want to wear.

However, many critics in their reviews were fixated on the south of France and Françoise Gilot.

As recounted by,

… Burch’s muse was Françoise Gilot. “Because she was a strong woman and a great artist,” she said a little testily when asked why. “And she was the only woman who left Picasso.”

This would explain Suzy Menkes seemingly random sojourn to the south of France in her review of the collection. Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso spent some time in the south of France.

The day before Tory Burch’s collection showing for NYFW S/S 2015, Ms. Menkes berated Donna Karan for allowing African influences to dominate her collection.

Donna Karan just seems to try too hard to take influences out of Africa, while her home city – New York – would surely offer more easy answers and easy pieces.

Having used “Africa” as a theme in her Vogue column just the day before, Ms. Menkes wouldn’t want to be told take her own advice, by using it again to describe Tory Burch’s collection… so she went to the South of France. But with having to review 7 collections each day for a whole week, she can hardly be blamed.

Another critic who couldn’t resist the French connection, was Women’s Wear Daily, who called the collection a “savvy interpretation of la parisienne bohème.”

Tory Burch has a pretty underwhelming personality that belies an overwhelming creativity, with the use of rich textures, outlines and compositions, in her collections.

Click here to see more pictures of ashoke used in African fashion.

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