Since the apparent expiry of magic, the Shai have significantly weakened. Many of them died of illness, and the majority of the rest killed by invaders who sought to steal their (now useless) magic artefacts for their own use. Clans of them still exist in tightly-knit groups that travel the lands, trying to adapt to a harsher world without magic and to cling on to a culture which has largely been forgotten.
For their appearance I did take influence from Romani and other nomadic (or gypsy) peoples' culture and traditional dress, and also traditional embroidered clothing from Albanian culture. Since the Shai express their talents through crafting, clothing would no doubt be richly embroidered and coloured and worn in often quite extravagant fashions.
The remaining Shai, following their downfall, would still be wearing these fabrics but they will have lost a lot of their vibrancy, and would now tear and become worn, which will be apparent in their character designs.
I created the bottom set as I thought the ones above weren't dynamic and interesting enough. I've found it difficult considering interesting silhouettes when I don't want the characters to look too over-the-top and impractical - they will mostly be wearing ragged, heavily layered clothing to express the general downcast 'mood' of the world. I also found it generally difficult to draw so freely without thinking too much.
I nevertheless took a couple and adapted them into some fairly quick concepts of what they might look like. To contrast with the pale skinned and haired people from the snowy northern countries, I want the Shai to be darker in their complexion and hair colours (although I'm aware the guy below is looking very pale...). I think perhaps the Shai survivors will have a sort of muted/greyish tinge to their skin to reflect how an important part of their lifestyle and being has faded.
This is an example of a generic male/female. I have tried not to be too bright with the colours, and to create more of a ragged or thrown-together feel rather than making their outfits too precise and neat, whilst still adding small ornate or colourful details to hint to their past culture.
Following this I took some more silhouettes and adapted them to create initial ideas for my Shai character - the one who was discovered in a snowed-in camp and revived by a Romerri traveller. I wasn't sure on whether they should be male or female; at this stage I've settled on female, and below I experimented with different personalities and dress styles - more typically feminine or tomboyish, vulnerable or powerful? Roughly drawing out my ideas while I think of the character's personality helps establish them in my mind and see what works and what doesn't.
The Romerri were slightly easier to draw up silhouettes for as they are quite 'angular' in their appearance. Something I'm very much aware of at this stage is how they might seem so at odds with the Shai that it might seem infeasible for them to exist in the same world - they are more inspired by contemporary fashion than traditional cultures, and are therefore a bit more modern in their look.
I didn't add as much detail to these as my last rough concepts, so it's hard to get an idea of texture and material - they look a little too sleek here, when I want them to have a slightly more roughed up appearance to suit the somewhat 'post-apocalpytic' tone of the world. I've already shown some of the moodboards I've gathered for the Romerri, but I've expanded beyond looking at 'dark fashion' to 'post-apocalyptic' fashion as well. There's endless inspiration and reference in this particular fashion style that capture what I want to express in this particular group of people.
As I've mentioned I think the heavily layered look, and combining different materials, fits them as they live in a colder climate. Their people are eager to find a means of creating magical artefacts for themselves, often to the detriment of others, but they have yet to accomplish this. They are, in comparison to the Shai, generally considered quite harsh and selfish in their nature, although in reality they have a different sense of morality. Many of them struggle to get by in the harsh cold climate of their home country, and so those who rule over them seek the answer in magic.
The subtle, monochromatic colour palette of their outfits reflects the general amorality of their society - there is no black and white.
For now I'm going to focus on establishing the Shai character. Tomorrow I will begin working on the Kukru. As these two are slightly more typically 'fantasy', I think if I define what their looks are, I'll be able to adapt the Romerri suitably so that they fit in a little better. At the moment they seem to modern, and not quite fitting for a pre-technological world.