African Fashion: Creativity, Heritage and Intrigue
‘Africa’ is often associated with ‘Boldness,’ ‘Creativity,’ ‘Talent’ and ‘Style.’ There’s no straightforward definition of the African style as it is ever evolving and quickly shaping the fashion industry, music and food around the world.
In the media, African fashion is almost always synonymous with prints and vibrant colors. Yet, the Continent boasts of an even more diverse fashion image, influenced by the unique diversity of her people, their rich cultures, varied skin tones and different mother tongues. Unarguably, the major ambassadors of African Fashion are the showbiz entertainers of the continent. They are often seen performing on stage or on red carpets wearing notable African designs. This has caused the African style to penetrate into the western pop culture as we see international fans of these entertainers mimicking their styles.
Despite the diversity of African style, we cannot fail to recognize the unity displayed by the vibrant print designs that represent so many aspects of African traditions. There is a certain screaming element of fashion culture that cannot be ignored. The African Fashion statement is strong, intriguing and never fails to draw attention. Be it a simple or complex design, we are always captivated by the unapologetic attitude of African Style.
In Northern, Western, Southern and Eastern Africa, women’s fashion is one of the most evolving and dominating sectors of the industry with an inexhaustible list of traditional attires ranging from Djellaba/Caftans, Boubou, Kishutu, Kente, Adire, Umushananas, Shuka, Kangas etc. These attires often reflect different cultures and histories. For example, in East Africa, Kishutu is given to young brides as part of their dowry – whereas Kanga is given as a gift for birthdays or other special occasions.
Currently, African style is shaping the evolutions of both high fashion and street fashion. Yves Saint Laurent, a French luxury fashion designer has been known to be significantly influenced by the continent. This led the brand to commemorate the first ever fashion museum in Morocco. In late 2017, Stella McCartney’s Spring 2018 collection showcased unique African textile at the Paris fashion week. In entertainment, we’ve seen African designs on influencers and celebrities like Beyoncé, Pharrell and Rihanna. While ‘Dashikis’ became prominent street fashion in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Berlin.
In spite of its widespread acceptance and success, a common belief, however, is that African fashion lacks the Western aesthetic of practical day-to-day wear, it rather encourages individuals to dress up for emphatic fashion statements. This is not surprising seeing as the African style is reflection of rich cultural heritage, and has been used as a tool to rebrand the African image from being less and voiceless to boldly showcasing creativity and vibrance.