Prague, Czech Republic --
We are witnessing a unique post-Communist fashion awakening.
What's going on with Prague fashion? Half the year hidden away in winter coats ("Prague Spring" might have been a misnomer), the other half enduring jeers from their western neighbors for pairing sandals with socks, Czechs continue to negotiate their relationship with fashion -- from the west, from the east, and from within. And it's no surprise: for 40 very recent years (and in the west, a very fashion-formative 40 at that), dress in Czechoslovakia was, like just about everything else, a matter of strict regulation and restriction.
Now, however, the Czech Republic boasts one of the biggest-booming economies of the post-Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, consumerism is on the up-and-up (and up), and Prague shopping centres crop up like mushrooms after a rain.
But Czech fashion can't be bought at H&M. What has emerged out of the most recent 20 years of Prague fashion history is a climate of ingenuity. An active, diverse blogosphere provides a hub for debate among critics and consumers. DIY culture -- a holdover, perhaps of the homemade fashion that characterized the Communist era -- impels an army of citizen-stylists to do their own taste making.
With a population just below 1.3 million, the city is large enough to have its own homespun celebrities but small enough to feel cozily, democratically, accessible. Winter may be long, but when in Paris and New York the window displays fade to brown and grey, the bright colors of a Praguer's wardrobe rival only the city's candy-heart façades.
What's going on in Prague fashion is not what's going on in French Elle or U.K. Marie Claire -- so the Czech Republic has its own editions of both. An unconventional history does not a conventional style make. Regarding the socks-with-sandals thing, chastising the fashion "rulebreakers" just seems a little petty.
By: Morgan Childs
Photography by Morgan Childs