TOTEM: indigenous Taiwanese-inspired fashion steals the show at TIS 2017

Traditional patterns meet modern style in the 2017 collection from designer group TOTEM

TOTEM brand runway presentation (Image: Taipei IN Style)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – One of the most distinctly Taiwanese brands of the Taipei IN Style showcase had to be TOTEM, which is inspired by, and incorporates traditional patterns of Taiwan's indigenous peoples.

The TOTEM brand is a group of designers that varies in size every year. They have been crafting quality clothing with a truly local Taiwanese style for 15 years.

Taiwan News caught up with some exhibitors at Taiwan IN Style ahead of the brand's presentation of their new collection for 2017.

Drawing on inspiration and traditional designs from the 16 groups of indigenous Taiwanese tribes, TOTEM's collection combines modern digital prints of traditional patterns, along with handmade bolts of cloth purchased from elderly indigenous craftspeople.

The result of the combination is a stunning blend of modern fashion sense, imbued with a timeless and enchanting cultural beauty that is uniquely Taiwanese.



The collection this year contains traditional patterns from the Amis, Atayal, Rukai, Truku, and Paiwan peoples.

Currently, TOTEM maintains a workshop near Taipei Dome, and creates their custom designs specifically to order. They have customers in places as far as Turkey, Russia, and Colombia.

The exhibitors that spoke with Taiwan News said that TOTEM's goal is to remind people that what is old is still beautiful, and can be made new again; and that the culture of Taiwan's indigenous people deserves to be known and appreciated throughout the world.

Along with the theme of making what is old or previously used appear new again, a message of conservation and respect for the natural environment is also especially important to Taiwan's indigenous people, and TOTEM aims to reflect that.

This year several pieces are designed from recycled tree bark, using fashion to signify a pure and essential connection to the earth.

The designers behind the TOTEM collection come from all over Taiwan, and most of them are young women in their early to late twenties. This is excellent news for future of the brand, and the increased attention that a brand like TOTEM can bring to the indigenous peoples of Taiwan.