Long before today’s fashion, Maasai women mastered the medium of couture quality craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind designs. Surrounded by a kaleidoscope of intricately beaded jewelry and an unlimited spectrum of adornments, it’s impossible to deny the abundance of skills and style in a Maasai village. Every bracelet, necklace, and collar is hand-beaded in unique shapes and patterns, showing more precision than many haute joaillerie items. And if you think the Maasai are only gifted in the accessories department, you’d be extremely wrong. The same type of dapper draping that seasonally parades down Paris’ runways is another element of “Maasai chic,” noted by made-to-measure shukas. Said shukas often appear in juxtaposed reds and blues, proving to be even more aesthetically appealing.
However, the regal ensembles amongst the Maasai aren’t intentional fashion statements, but instead deeper cultural elements. For example, different colors of the beads used in the jewelry represent pivotal concepts; red signifies blood, blue corresponds to the heavens, and green symbolizes prosperity, fertility, and peace. Possibly even more impressive than the immaculate Maasai savoir-faire is the tribe’s persistent strength in their traditions, especially in the face of modernity and Westernization.
The Maasai’s captivatingly diligent spirit highlights their astonishing handwork, and although fashion might not be the motive, it’s impossible to find their ensembles any less than beautiful. If they haven’t already, designers and couturiers should take note of the generations of Maasai mastery. This is real, organic high fashion.
Check out some more detailed images of Maasai beadwork that I took during my recent stay in Kenya!