Trade Beads as High Fashion Accessory

Ralph Lauren's 2013 Spring Collection ralph-lauren-rtw-ss2013-runway-04_142252375809 ralph-lauren-rtw-ss2013-runway-05_142253445084 ralph-lauren-rtw-ss2013-runway-10_142257863250 ralph-lauren-rtw-ss2013-runway-11_142258809450 ralph-lauren-rtw-ss2013-runway-13_142259861767 tradeBeads_b-8297 tradeBeads_b-8303 tradeBeads_b-8308 tradeBeads_b-8312 tradeBeads_b-8314 tradeBeads_b-8315

Spotted as accessories to Ralph Lauren’s colorful and wearable 2013 Spring Collection, loops and loops of vintage trade beads. Paired with ruffles, fringe, embroidery, serape inspired stripes, these and similar beads, like Lauren’s muses are no less traveled. The 2013 Spring Collection suggests Spain and Latin America and Lauren’s jodphurs, bolero vests, draped scarves, tilted berets and brimmed hats are re-imagined in colors that exude intensity and passion.

These vintage bohemian, or trade beads, were purchased from a group of modern day African traders from Mali and Ghana. Produced originally by Venetians known for their glass wares, they were imported by companies in Germany, Holland, and England then traded in Africa and the Americas. The height of what is referred to as the “trade” period was from the mid 1800s through the early 1900s. Millions of beads were made during that time utilizing various raw materials; metals and minerals. The sizes and shapes ranged from the traditional rounded to tubular, hexagonal, and unique globular and even claw like profiles.

Worn on the runway, in conjunction with a matador’s bolero vest, a poet’s blouse, or a chiffon dress, trade beads project a statement not unlike the image of this and previous Ralph Lauren collections and the women who wear them; well adorned and well traveled.

Curious where to find African trade beads? We have listed two strands at Ephemerascenti at Etsy. Please contact us regarding interest in other strands shown.

vogue photo credits: Monica Feudi/