The Raffia Trend: Fashion Fad, or Worth the Investment? | Savoir Flair

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The Raffia Trend: Fashion Fad, or Worth the Investment?
article PACO RABANNE
by Lindsay Judge 2-minute read July 2, 2023

The raffia trend is suddenly exploding. Raffia, a sustainable material derived from the Raphia Palm tree, is a trending choice in luxury fashion. With its rich history and versatility, raffia adds a touch of exclusivity to this summer's collection of accessories. Is it worth the investment?

In recent years, we have seen the raffia trend dip in and out of luxury collections, but this summer, its popularity has suddenly exploded – from Jacquemus’ SS23 ‘Le Raphia’ collection to Prada’s cult beach bag, which appears on the arm of every stylish vacationer on our Instagram feeds. But where did this woven material originate from, and is it worth all the hype? We delve into the origin of these coveted products and discover some of the must-have pieces to add to your shopping list this summer.

Derived from the Raphia Palm tree, raffia is a natural, sustainable material that requires a unique harvesting process. Raphia Palms are characterized by their short trunks and large leaves, reaching up to 25 meters long and three meters wide. These rare trees are found in humid climates in Africa, South America, the Philippines, and, most commonly, Madagascar. In these areas, raffia has been considered a noble material for centuries, often used in religious ceremonies and even worn by political leaders and royalty.

Raffia harvesting follows a unique and sustainable technique that does not harm or destroy any trees during the process. After growing for around five years, the trees produce raffia fibers (technically known as raphia farinifera), located in the membrane of the palm’s leaves. Once ready, these leaves are cut from the tree and torn in parallel lines. They are then placed in direct sunlight for 24 hours, allowing them to dry and take on a natural color. Once ready, this raw material can be woven using a crochet hook on a traditional vertical loom or an oblique loom to create the finished product.

Raffia is considered a very versatile material thanks to its durable yet soft texture. Once dried, raffia can be easily dyed with natural pigments. It will remain biodegradable and recyclable, making it one of the most environmentally conscious materials used in the fashion industry.

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RAFFIA

TREND

Today raffia is still a rare material, but its popularity contributes to a fast-growing industry, with many luxury brands turning to local raffia producers to source the raw materials and working with local artisans to produce products. This traditional craft has created jobs and provided livelihoods for thousands worldwide, as brands continue to move away from using synthetic (often cheaper) materials and focus on authenticity, sustainability, and handmade products. Thanks to the rarity of the raw materials and the lengthy process involved, genuine raffia products continue to have a sense of exclusivity attached to them, meaning they should be cherished as much as a leather bag or silk shirt. Maybe more.

This summer, there’s an abundance of raffia bags to choose from some of our favorite brands. Below, we reveal a few of our top picks.

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Loewe Medium Basket Bag aed2,253 at MATCHES FASHION
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Balenciaga Beach Bag Medium Tote aed6,289 at BALENCIAGA
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Loro Piana Beach Mini Striped Tote Bag aed4,418 at MYTHERESA
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Céline Classic Panier Hobo Bag aed6,100 at CÉLINE
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Chloé Sense Tote aed2,482 at FARFETCH
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Khaite Medium 'Olivia' Shoulder Bag aed3,378 at FARFETCH
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Paco Rabanne  Large Basket Bag aed5,354 at PACO RABANNE
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Saint Laurent 'Kate' Shoulder Bag aed10,000 at NET-A-PORTER
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Valentino Garavani  Roman Stud Raffia Tote aed15,139 at MYTHERESA
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Prada Crochet Tote Bag aed10,500 at PRADA
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