Kaftans are not new, but they are back this summer in a big way.

Perhaps not a surprise, I have to think about dresses, a lot. This week I am going to Istanbul, to talk about Girl Meets Dress at Turkey’s largest Marketing Summit. It got me thinking about which dresses to take - and what exactly makes the perfect city summer dress? Mid length | light | modest | with sleeves | can be worn with trainers | comfortable to wear walking all day | fun colours | easy to match with a denim or leather jacket… the list goes on.

Kaftans are not new, but they are back this summer in a big way. And not just for the beach. Brands such as Dodo Bar Or, March11 and Camilla make luxe colourful kaftans adorned with pop poms, fringing and tassels. Though not cheap, they seek to offer fans the ultimate purchase and are worn to death.

Some of the most creative and inspiring businesses are created by fashion stylists. Spending years of their career surrounded by the world’s best and most eclectic brands makes for an encyclopaedic knowledge of what the female consumer wants. The former British Vogue editor and stylist Pippa Holt launched her line of kaftans to celebrate her love of indigenous textiles, far-flung travel and beautiful, original holiday attire. Growing up on the beaches of Australia, she was inspired by her grandmother’s style of tropical dressing at her seaside holiday home on The Great Barrier Reef. Pippa first started wearing the kaftans when she was living in Houston. and couldn’t find anything else to wear in the Texan heat.

Holt sources them from experienced artisans in a Mexican village so remote that she has to meet the women weavers in a nearby town. A kaftan (huipil) takes three weeks to one month to complete. But that does not include the time spent gathering dye plants, collecting firewood needed to boil the dyes, hand cleaning and spinning yarn, sewing, etc.

Made from a heavy, embroidered cotton cloth, the colours come from natural dyes, woven by hand on a back-strap loom, an ancient weaving technique that has been used by generations in this community. Head weaver, Felipa has over fifty years experience and along with her daughter, Angelica and a group of artisans, who work on them as a supplementary income to their fruit stalls.

The colourful designs are based on the traditional patterns from their village and each one comes in four iterations in one size (which fits up to a 16). The process of creating the vibrant natural hues is one itself of wonderment - and each colour has its own story. This area of Mexico is famous for using sea-snail purple dye, squeezed from the molluscs after they have been taken off rocks in the sea. Although it is initially colourless, contact with the air turns it yellow, green, and ultimately purple. The snails are put back on the rocks after this process, which explains why this resource has not been exhausted after so many centuries. The Red tones come from Cochineal, a parasitic insect that is cultivated and harvested in a very laborious process.

Spoilt for choice, the Spring/Summer ‘18 collection has so many amazing patterns and colours. Inspired by the Instagram photos, these are currently my three favourite styles, which I would wear with a contrast colour belt. The only question remaining is whether emergency delivery arrives before my flight.

No. 93.

No. 66.

No 58.

May 2018