What is Bohemian?
We use the word bohemian to describe a style that stands apart: a person who lives life by their own rules, pushes the boundaries of convention and remains open to new experiences. In recent years “bohemian” has come to define much of our modern lifestyle - especially in New York. Though this word has its roots in a movement from over a century ago, our understanding of its origins remains vague. Today, in honor of our new Bohemia Collection, we take a deeper dive into a fascinating and influential movement.
In early 1800’s France, a group of artists and creators began living in the lower-class, lower-rent Romani neighborhoods of Paris. Along with art and philosophy, they produced a social movement that defied the norms of French society and quickly spread from major cities across Europe into the United States. This movement came to be known as “Bohemianism”, but why?
The Romani, like many “gypsy” minorities across Germany, Spain and France, are collectively known as the Doma and were thought to have migrated from an area of Czechoslovakia called Bohemia - you may recognize that as the kingdom of the deposed king in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Like that exiled king, bohemians were imagined to be free peoples, without strict laws and morality.
In fact, the Doma came from areas much farther afield. Recent studies of Romani language and writing shows a direct connection with Punjab and Hindi. We now know that these people in fact originated in northern India, around Rajasthan, and their beliefs connect to spiritual practices in Hinduism. Contrary to popular prejudice, the Doma were not rootless nomads without morals and laws, but rather a diaspora who brought their own traditions with them as they settled in western Europe.
The Bohemian Movement arose from an intersection of cultures and classes. In the Romani lifestyle, the early bohemians began to discover a different viewpoint on society. As with many cultural revolutions, this one began with the connection of disparate peoples unafraid to create change. To see its aftereffects, you need look no farther than the 1960’s and the current society it helped to create.
With everything we create, we always try to go one step farther and look deeper to reveal the hidden stories. Today with our new collection, we celebrate Bohemianism and the tenants of personal expression, creativity and wanderlust that have their roots in the Doma of Rajasthan.