The language of traditional dress
Luis, luischumpitaz.com

A recent project about traditional dress in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) got us thinking about good old Roland Barthes. He famously interpreted fashion as a language, which, like all languages, is full of myths, codes and paradoxes; at once superficial and profound; fixed in some ways, evolving in others; always subject to personal interpretation, collective judgement and commercial exploitation. The subject is a fascinating one and Barthes published two books on it: The Fashion System (1967) and The Language of Fashion (2006).

While Barthes wrote about linguistic and industrial aspects of French fashion, we explored the unique nuances of clothing in this part of the world. As a team of non-Arab expat journalists, it was exciting to learn about the sartorial traditions in the Arab Gulf countries, with a special focus on the UAE.

As always, our Arab and Emirati colleagues supported the project with first-hand input and, in this case, even practical demonstrations:

Meaningful monochrome

Garments take on a heightened significance in traditional societies such as the UAE, where the majority of locals wear national dress every day, although this is a relatively recent custom. UAE national dress as we see it today only dates back to the 1970s, when the Islamic Revival, which brought a resurgence of Muslim religion and traditions, gained momentum. In the realm of fashion, this chiefly meant a return to modest, plain clothing coupled with a general rejection of Westernisation and commercialisation. At the time, many people in the UAE wore Western clothes or a mixture of Arab and Western attire, so the Islamic Revival created a new fashion mainstream, which not only manifested the country’s religious and cultural values, but also clearly distinguished nationals from expatriates. In a country where more than 80 per cent of the population consists of expatriates, Emiratis have come to use national dress as a way to differentiate themselves from the majority of ‘others’ and to express pride in their native culture.

Compared to traditional clothing worn in other parts of the world, it is striking how demure and uniform the sartorial cultures of the Gulf countries are. As shown in the infographic, Khaleeji (Gulf Arab) national dress commonly consists of a loose-fitting black cloak (Abaya) worn with a black headscarf for women…

… and a white ankle-length garment (Kandura) worn with a white or red-and-white headscarf for men.Whether in Kuwait City, Doha or Dubai, the colours worn in public are mostly monochrome, punctuated by the occasional, usually male, wearer of brown, grey or patterned materials.

- See more at: http://luischumpitaz.com/blog/the-language-of-traditional-dress/#sthash.KnCpOVO7.dpuf

In Conversation with Rubyetc

You’ve probably seen her work before on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a multitude of other social media sites; her artwork is as distinctive as it is honest and revealing.

My interview with Rubyetc in Issue 306 of Venue (Concrete’s culture pullout). You can also view the digital edition of the ‘paper here.

Big thanks to Ruby for agreeing to the interview, despite my inability to keep it anywhere vaguely on track!

Avengers filming at UEA (Sainsbury Centre cafe) - spot the Avengers logo!
Via. @enjoynorwich on Twitter.

Literally, my flat last year was just behind where this photo would have been taken from: I could have sat in my kitchen and looked out to this view. I’ve not gone down because apparently everything’s very under wraps now: screens up, harsher security and they’re not letting people take photos. However there’s various reports on Twitter from people who met some of the production crew out drinking last night who say most the key cast will be there so I may live to regret that decision… I’m going down with my family later today and if there’s anything left then we’re having a nose.

Update: Robert Downey Jr. has definitely been spotted out in the relative open here.