How is African Fashion re-telling Africa’s story?
Hello everyone! I am brimming with excitement because we will be talking about one of my lost favorite topics today…drumroll…Tada! We’ll be talking about Fashion and laying emphasis on African fashion and the influence it has in re-telling our story.
So let’s talk about Fashion, shall we?
When I was still a kid, I used to see teenagers and young adults prance about in their bell-bottom pants and Mini skirts, it was all about copying and emulating the western fashion style then.
Then I grew up and realized, the African fashion industry grew too, and when I say fashion I just do not mean clothes alone, I mean our hair, our body art, our jewellery and overall style has been taken up by the west. Our precious Kente,Dansiki, damask, Ankara, Aso Oke, Adire, were being worn by western celebrities and fashionistas. Our body art; the cam wood, uli ,native chalk and laali were being used by pop stars including Beyoncé in their music videos, I swear it blew me away.
Let’s talk about our eye/popping melanin skin that is to die for! Why do you think some people get a tan? They want a bit of that radiant darkness our skin carries, that thickness that can withstand the harshest of weathers. Then our strong hair, our strong beautiful hair that does not grow limp and flake out. Our beautiful afros that shield our radiant faces from the sun. The Same afros the world now copy!
Indeed Africa is richly blessed in all things.
So many designs today are originally from Africa. The crop top and mini skirt coupled with waist jewellery can be traced to when we wore our lappas above our knees and a little cloth over our breasts and jigida on our waists as maidens, the bun and chignon hairdo were ours, what about the tattoos? My great grand mother had a lot of tattoos on her body and before she died she said maidens got these tattoos as a rite of passage during their coming of age initiation event. The ability to take the sting that came with the piercings and markings without a single tear was marked as bravery and celebrated.
We wore cowries on our ankles before the west even thought of making gold anklets and painted our fingers and toes with laali and ginger even before nail polish was invented. Our gele paved the way for all the westernized head wraps we see today on YouTube.
Africa has contributed greatly to the growth of the fashion industry globally and even if it took a while, the fact that we are finally being recognized,emulated and given the praise for a lot of styles is very satisfying.
We have lots of amazing African designers doing wonders all over the world, any major fashion you go to both offline and online, the African influence and presence is greatly felt. Go to Etsy, Motherland, even eBay. Go to all sites both major and minor and there is a wide range of market for African fashion. Infact it is one of the most lucrative and satisfying route to take right now as a designer and as a business person.
So have we arrived? Are we where we’ve always wanted to be? The answer is no, but we are getting there. Lots of research and documentaries are being carried out on African fashion , Western runway shows are packed full of our original and unique designs and fabrics, it is a beautiful feeling to be known as a continent that has enviable fashion style, it is good that Africa is getting the recognition she deserves all over the world. These stories should be told more often and it should wipe away all the poverty porn and propaganda carried about by people who do very bad research and label Africa as a continent only known for hunger,diseases, terrorism and poverty. There is more to us and our sense of fashion has broken through this barrier.
In the next 50 years, I see Africa advancing at a very accelerated speed and being the go-to place for all things fashionable and genuine and vintage. This is our continent and we just need to keep believing in her. So I believe that African fashion is one of the main and positive forces that have put Africa on the map and put us in a good light. I hope we get to exploit more opportunities and other untapped areas like science and Tech. Would it really be so bad if the next throng of inventors and successful scientists all come from Africa? Let us keep hope alive and keep believing in our dear continent. If fashion could make it through then there is nothing else that cannot.