Last year, when Jacquemus debuted its spring 2023 collection, focused on raffia, the beachy textile was having a moment. Not only was the runway show titled “Le Raphia” — the French term for the material — but threads of raffia fell from the ceiling and models walked wearing everything raffia, from giant hats and oversized earrings to fringed crop tops and voluminous coats.
The show confirmed what I’ve always known: raffia is not just a beach textile. Since moving to the United States from Puerto Rico, I’ve been baffled by the way people reserve their raffia handbags and other accessories for salty beaches and poolside gatherings. Sure, I come from a place where it’s sunny and warm year-round — both factors that often lead to the usage of raffia — but why deny ourselves the opportunity to wear such a lively and relaxed textile in the winter? Or even just outside of a beach context? After all, raffia — extracted from the palm trees of the same name — is a tough material that can withstand much more than just sand and salty water, while its texture is a sartorial dream.
Many designers are also pushing the raffia agenda this year. Aside from Jacquemus, brands like Khaite and Bottega Veneta have released raffia versions of popular styles, including the latter’s Cassette handbag, which was a staple of the Daniel Lee era and usually comes in woven leather. They followed the popular Prada crochet tote bag, which was first released in 2021 and has since become a go-to for influencers like Chiara Ferragni and Alexandra Pereira. On the footwear front, It brand Larroudé recently released a variety of their popular sky-high platforms in raffia, as well as wedges — one of 2023’s top shoe trends — and mules in both tan and black.
This raffia takeover is notable for all the different ways this classic material is reinvented. Raffia, for example, is most commonly seen in neutral or tan colors. But brands like Prada, have released their raffia accessories in bright and pastel colors, while Larroudé went the tropical goth way with matte black footwear. Seeing these displays of non-cliché raffia usage, I’ve renewed my hopes that this material — and its many siblings, that also include another palm tree-rooted textile, called rattan — can be taken out of their usual sceneries and hold a space in our wardrobes year-round. Not only because using our pieces regardless of the season may help wind down overconsumption, but because the woven construction and durability of raffia deserves a chance to shine when it’s not 80 degrees and sunny.
But, for now, let’s just start with summer in the city, shall we? With no plans for a beachside vacation, here are three ways I’m wearing raffia this season — no sand included.
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Go For White
I’ve never been one to wear star bags in neutral colors. There’s something about the natural raffia shade that makes the handbag look washed out and it’s harder to pull off in non-beach scenarios. So, instead, I go for white, mainly because it’s easy to style and holds a certain elegance when taken out of a waterside context. This summer, I plan on styling it with jeans and a white button-down, a classic outfit formula that can be easily be adjusted with accessories.
Make it cocktail-appropriate
Ever since I got this raffia clutch (pictured above), I haven’t stopped wearing it to go out. No matter the time of the year, I’ve managed to pull it off by simply pairing it with any black night time outfit, from a romper to a matching set (pictured above). This summer, I’m adding my raffia platforms to the mix, not caring about matching my raffia. Anything goes after dark.
Just add a slip dress
Summertime silk dresses are one of my favorite pieces for the season. Adding a contrasting raffia handbag that clashes with the silk’s smooth finish is a great way to make the season’s outfits more interesting. If the contrast is too much, try to keep the colors as monochrome as possible (like the example pictured above), making it easier for the raffia to blend in.