The Rise of Africa – AfroFuturism
The world has a handful of fashion meccas and capitals, but cities like Dakar, Kampala, Nairobi and Lagos are starting to catch the eyes of the high rollers in popular culture out west. In 2017, the world seemed to have taken an interest into different perspectives that were not solely European.
African fashion began to fizzle to the top of the popular scene. Dating back to the days of superstar Fela Kuti, Africans fashion sense has always been described as ‘flashy’ or ‘loud’ and in certain cases ‘political’. His clothing choices were not only an expression of good taste and bravado, but also a conspicuous rejection of Western ideals. For Fela, wearing, what was considered to be, non-Western attire was a matter of authenticity.
His fashion birthed different movements into modern African storefronts. Fast forward to the 21st century and the African millennial males’ fashion palette is extremely diverse. The current looks have grown past the traditional garb and have become more ‘ futuristic’. As well as athleisure becoming a popular trend in South Africa. This is in part because Africans are starting to receive more of a spotlight of recent with the release of the film ‘Black Panther’. A current trend that I have grown keen to which combines elements of the past and future is described as ‘Afrofuturism ‘.
Afrofuturism is a philosophy of history, philosophy of science and a cultural aesthetic that re-imagines the identity of African and re-examines history to create bold new possible worlds. Lately many designers like Ikiré Jones in New York, Maki Oh, Orange Culture in Lagos or Mwami in Dakar are reimagining the future all while maintaining elements of tradition. The scene is filled with more and more pieces that have colors from acid oranges to luminous blues a minimalistic design with no oversaturation of Ankara prints. Many young designers now are putting out products that our more progressive and universal, but still African.
Sub-saharan Africa’s apparel and footwear market is reportedly worth $31 billion according to data by Euromonitor. Labels such as Nigeria’s Maki Oh – recently worn by Beyonce, Jewel By Lisa and Ikiré Jones are establishing themselves as international brands beyond the continent. I think African fashion is not afraid of patterns and colors, that’s the one thing that we do in our sleep, so we use it to be louder amongst our foreign friends. Which is attracting major brands to connect with up-and-coming brands that understand their audience. With Afrofuturism becoming a growing trend, I believe we will see more future revisits to the past.
The rise of Afrofuturism in the United States (and globally) runs parallel with an increasing awareness among well-educated people of color and the growing Diaspora; pop culture in all its forms have created a rich atmosphere for the promotion of alternate ideas surrounding black people (the new superhero film Black Panther, the mega-hit Get Out, among others). It is here that such media and content can grapple with the current realities of the world, ie, racial injustice, representation, environmental degradation, political uncertainty, and conflict between people of color and police. Which is expressed in fashion pieces by designers like Princejyesi or Senegalese footwear designer Milo Ficar.
All in all I believe that bigger house names like Gucci may start to test new African inspired patterns as brands like Prada, Daily Paper and Hugo boss have already done it with some of their Fall ‘17 pieces as well as Nike. This year we expect to see Africa as a part of every big brands marketing campaign.