What comes to mind when you think of African fashion?
I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of it lately, celebrities wearing a lot of African inspired looks a la King Bey herself.
I even did a double take whilst watching one highly addictive Korean Drama, is she wearing African print?
Look at Mindy Kaling also rocking her cute little African inspired outfit!
There has been an absolute explosion worldwide, African inspired looks, Africa fashion weeks available and popular in various stylish cities in the world. African music is bumping in everyone’s headphones.Did you see Taraji P Henson Instagram about listening to Wizkids Caro?
I will now proceed to show you what young Africans on the continent are doing with fashion, how they interpret it, how they wear it.
Egypts Hadia Ghaleb
A major key to some amazing styling of everyday garments in Africa is thrifting and the tailor down at the market who is churning out all sorts of outfits we must have for weddings, kitchen parties.( don’t forget outfits for church!) We have a plethora of clothes stores, but for a nice mix and vintage finds, thrifting is it.
We have a plethora of clothes stores, but for a nice mix and vintage finds, thrifting is it.
The amazing thing about thrifting is that you have so many labels from around the world right at your finger tips. From Gucci to H&M, Old Navy to Zara (Even Chanel honey!). It’s all in there. So you are very likely to find something you’ve only seen in magazines. Maybe worn a few times but still in good condition.Thrifting allows you to ‘shop’ closets from all over the world and wear labels you’ve never dreamed you could afford
When you thrift oftentimes you are not shopping with size as a guide. You are keeping your eyes peeled for what looks good and sometimes *gasp* its way too big, or way to small. So you thrift some more, or… think about how you can piece together a great look for what you have found.
A few tips for thrifters from Nairobi here :
Thrifting is not all we are all about though. We have access to our own fashion houses, some can afford to travel abroad and buy some very nice clothes or start our own fashion lines ( see bakchic , Kutowa , Lukhanyo , Chizo the list is endless ).
Don’t let the usual narrative of Africa fool you (poor, dry, flies, wars, dictators.. who has time for fashion with all that happening?). We have some of the most stylish but underrepresented / unrecognised fashion bloggers, designers, representatives in the world. We go far beyond models like Iman or Liya Kibede ( Oluchi I see you!)
Somebody once asked :
“Why do Africans dress so colourfully?”
It’s simple darling.
It’s what makes our melanin pop, have you seen us in coral? Yellow? Deep emerald greens?
Visit our countries and see how our natural habitat inspires us.
It makes us happy.
Some people fear that having African fashion that does not have any African print in it removes the Africanness from it. This thinking keeps Africa and its fashion steeped in a narrative that says that Africa is not allowed to evolve in a way that fits the continent and its people.
The versatility of our landscapes, our people, our traditions and languages are a testament to how diverse we are and that change is inevitable.
While people sit around and discuss this, African bloggers stay slaying. Unbothered.
Our uncles are Congolese sapeurs ( Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People).Our pastors choose whether to colour coordinate ..or not. (Praise the Lord! Keep walking in those bleesings and ‘gators pastor!)
Have you seen the geles our mothers wear? The sheer number of lace hanging in the closet because .. events.
The main point is the creativity. How can I throw all these colours and materials together to create a feeling? Is it shock? Is it awe? You choose darling.
African fashion, art and music are steeped in a creativity that is full of emotion, colour, sometimes pain. It’s the way african people express themselves in a world that is yet to understand and maybe may never understand what it means to be African.African designers are wowing with their creative pieces that are vibrant, adventurous and unexpected.
This is what young African fashion is , changing the narrative, showcase the beauty and create partnerships. They are here to show us what they are about, and what being young , African and stylish looks like.
What we need to do is create a cohesiveness around African creativity no matter where in the world it is stationed, not only fashion but Art, Design, Music & Film.
African fashion means clinking our wine glasses darling, throwing our heads back in glorious laughter, our stylish head wraps gleaming in the sun, and styling our clothes in a way that feels right to us, in our glorious Africanness.
We will wear our prints, but it is not what defines fashion for us.
It is us Africans that define what our fashion is.
Want to get started on your creative journey? This guide book will surely help you get on your way!