Helen Jennings: New African Fashion (US Version). Prestel …
From Africa-inspired to African-made, this guide is the first to celebrate a new wave of fashion designers who are emerging on the global stage.Ever since the late 1960s when Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne presented African-inspired collections, the textiles, details, and colors of Africa have moved into the realm of high fashion. In the past few years, young designers from the continent itself have emerged as people to watch in the fashion world.
Helen Jennings, editor of award-winning ARISE magazine, offers in this book a brief history of African fashion, beauty and style, follows its influence on modern designers, and spotlights the best designers, photographers, and models from across the continent and the African diaspora. Profiling popular lines such as Duro Olowu, Jewel by Lisa, Black Coffee, and Eric Raisina, Jennings explores the myriad reasons why African fashion is having its moment in the sun. She shows how designers are looking beyond clichés of the African aesthetic by embracing both traditional and contemporary fabrics and garments, and how the passion for ethically and environmentally conscious clothing is fueling this trend. As colorful and exciting as the fashions it features, this volume will appeal to anyone interested in following the world’s most exciting new fashion development.“A refreshing and commendable stab at an extremely broad and underrepresented market.” —Worn Fashion Journal
Helen Jennings is the editor of ARISE, an award-winning fashion magazine with a focus on contemporary African fashion. She knows the African continent well through her many long stays there and is familiar with the African fashion scene through her participation in many local fashion events. Over the course of her journalistic activities she has published several issue-specific texts in fashion magazines such as i-D, The Face, and Time Out. She lives and works in London.
Africa Fashion Week London | London City Hall
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Africa Fashion Week London is a social enterprise, established to connect a new generation in the UK to a narrative, focused on encouraging trade for African designers with the global community through Fashion, Art and Media. In partnership with EPG Media, we support established and aspiring designers, helping to nurture African inspired fashion, design, culture and manufacturing across industries.
The Style Arbiters Changing The Way We Look At African Fashion
Some of the most exciting designers and influencers in menswear are taking their inspiration from the continent. Here, Patricia Yaker Ekall rounds up their unique approaches
Men’s fashion has never been in better health. As a global industry, it is forecast to outpace womenswear by 2022. Brands – from high street to high-end luxury – have become bolder and more adventurous in colour, pattern and shape. Old, restrictive dress codes have been shrugged off to embrace the aplomb of streetwear, the functionality of sportswear and a wider spirit of post-gender, post-rules freedom.
Vital to all of this has been an increase in the influence of fashion and talent from cities and continents beyond the traditional Western tastemakers of America and Europe. And nowhere has seen a rise in global prominence in men’s fashion over the past decade more than Africa.
This is evidenced in the growth of Africa’s Fashion Weeks, where runways – like others outside the powerhouses of Paris, Milan and New York – have found eager new audiences on Instagram. Men’s Fashion Week Nigeria – the menswear answer to the long-established Lagos Fashion Week – has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2016, while South Africa Fashion Week, now into its 21st year, showcases some of the most exciting menswear talent in the world.
In Europe, at Pitti Immagine Uomo 89 in 2015, a group show called ‘Generation Africa’ caught the eye of international press and attendees. Hosted by the Fondazione Pitti Discovery and the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, the event propelled up-and-coming designers of the African diaspora on to the international stage.
One such brand was Philadelphia-based company Ikiré Jones, a label that aims to prove the point that “elegance is not exclusive to any particular culture, hue or country.” Such was the brand’s success that Chadwick Boseman recently donned one of their designs in the blockbuster hit Black Panther.
The West, of course, has a centuries-old relationship with African art, fashion and craftsmanship so in a sense, this is nothing new. As recently as five or so years ago, when sharp tailoring and neatly folded pock squares re-emerged as the menswear ideal, it was easy to trace the influence of the DR Congo’s dandy Sapeurs in European cities (not to mention Solange music videos). Today, it is the flowing silhouettes, swathes of fabric and geometric prints that emerge in much African fashion that seem to speak to the current zeitgeist in the West.
As Nigeria-based Orange Culture founder Adebayo Oke-Lawal puts it, “there isn’t just one type of man who needs to be spoken to.” Hailing from an environment that tried to suppress his aesthetic taste, Oke-Lawal rebelled by launching a collection deliberately breaking gender stereotypes. Not that this is Oke-Lawal’s only concern – he also likes to stretch the boundaries of what might be considered ‘African’ in terms of pattern, colour and silhouette. “I like to work around a non-cliché ideology of Africa,” says the 28-year-old visionary, and he is not alone.
Africa Fashion Week | Adiree
A social enterprise: a platform for trade, marketing and development of Africa through ethical practices and fashion. Made from the need to bridge the gap, connect continents, and provide a platform for international retailers and designers worldwide. In 2009, Adiree Communications founded Africa Fashion Week (www.AfricaFashionWeek.com), a platform for placing structure around Africa’s developing retail and fashion industry and promoting international economic partnerships. (Read more on FORBES)
Retailers and designers looking to tap into the potential of Africa, both as producers and ultimately consumers of luxury goods should tap into our platform. AFW (in fashion capitals) concept was launched in 2010 to aid both retailers and designers in diversifying their business models, study respective markets, and strengthen their brands and product positioning in Africa and globally. 75% of our designers currently have shops in 9 Sub-Saharan countries — Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa — which serves as a rapid opportunity for brand and product partnerships. For large companies and corporations, our localized approach in hosting Africa Fashion Week in fashion capitals provides support to future expansions without the large capital investment or fear of the unknown. For designers and SMEs, it provides them access to new markets, branding opportunities, and a focused business environment to develop intentional client and partner relationships.
Africa Fashion Week is a movement founded by Adiree Communications in 2009, with the aim of contributing to luxury and mainstream fashion’s global development through events, media, retail, and tourism. Our platforms aim to educate, empower, and connect inspirational brands and individuals interested in breaking down barriers and creating structure around industries for business. Our premier launch of Africa Fashion Week (AFW) in New York, attracts more than 1,500 industry insiders; and also secured the support and an official proclamation from the offices of the New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who emphasized the event would promote tourism to New York with 70% of designers coming directly from Africa, thereby further fostering a relationship between the U.S. and Africa.
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African-made luxury fashion is making a comeback
A new wave of designers is building sustainable businesses that have learned from the failures of their glitzy predecessors.
In 2016, Suno shuttered after a decade of creating critically acclaimed collections in Africa. The next year, Maiyet, whose Nairobi artisans were once featured in a glossy New York spread, stopped making its own products and became an ethical-wear boutique in London. Edun, which Bono and his wife Ali Hewson founded in 2004, held on until last year when LVMH divested, and operations ceased in the US. It had suffered about $80 million in accumulated losses.
Designers like Vivienne Westwood and Kate Spade continue to use African factories, but the wave of international luxury brands that tried to marry social consciousness, quality African artisanship, glitz in the Western press, and high price tags has mostly faded. And yet, the African luxury goods market was valued at $5.9 billion in 2016, and LVMH predicts that it will grow 30 per cent in the next five years.
New talent is emerging on the international stage. South Africa’s Thebe Magugu and Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize are in the running for the 2019 LVMH Prize for young designers. McKinsey says buyers for international luxury stores are increasingly taking sustainability and ethical concerns into account. “I think the landscape has evolved in such a wonderful way to appreciate and absorb this idea of artisanship from unusual places,” says Maiyet co-founder Kristy Caylor.
In this environment, there are opportunities for upscale, black-owned, socially conscious brands that largely produce in Africa.
African fashion designers: ethically changing lives
“We are not selling because this is African, it is because of good design, desirable, and worth wearing,” says Belfast-born Penny Winter, a former costume designer with the Royal Opera House now based in Nairobi making covetable jewellery from indigenous materials such as horn, recycled brass and crystal. With a workforce of 12 full-time skilled artisans and more than 100 outsourced, she is selling to local upmarket hotels, exporting to more than 50 US stores and donates a percentage of profits to the British charity Tusk. Her clients have included Oprah Winfrey, Ali Hewson and Edun.
“We are creating volume consistently and to a high standard,” she points out when we meet at her garden studio in Karen, an upmarket suburb of the city. One of her craftworkers, Milka Adhiambo, explains that her job enables her to educate her six children. “I don’t know what I would do without it,” she smiles, beading a leather belt.
African design is gaining momentum these days. Fashion designers and other creatives with modern ideas and a growing commitment to ethical production methods are part of the buoyant Kenyan economy. Because of its booming tech industry, Nairobi’s multicultural capital has been dubbed Silicon Savannah – the M-pesa mobile phone money transfer system is widespread – and to a first-time visitor, burgeoning wealth and prosperity are obvious everywhere, not least in the city’s gridlocked traffic and overwhelming construction projects.
“Creatives bring the same revenue as mining, so the government is listening and asking more questions, so that is exciting,” says Sunny Dolat, founder of Nest, a collective of fashion designers, photographers, filmmakers and artists which supports about 30 businesses, the majority fashion, with revenue from filmmaking. “The government’s tax of 35 per cent on betting will go to sport and the arts. Because sport is bigger, it will get the most, but even 5 per cent will make a big impact,” he reckons.
The country’s leading superstar, a designer committed to slow fashion, is the award-winning Anyango Mpinga whose collections, shown at international fairs like Coterie in New York, support the livelihood of her team. “I make clothes that curvy women can wear and feel sexy,” she says at her apartment in Nairobi, explaining her big breakthrough when she won a Berlin Vogue competition, beating off entrants from the biggest fashion schools in the world. Her collections – just one a year – are notable for asymmetric cutting, Victorian references and prints drawn from her country’s history, from scarification rituals to ancient architectural details. She is also a social activist and campaigner against human trafficking.
In Nairobi her clothes are sold in the Design African Collective run by Diana Opoti, one of Kenya’s most powerful social influencers with an Instagram following of 72,000 and who was listed on the Business of Fashion as one of the 500 shaping the global fashion industry. The store in a mall in a wealthy area of the city sells about 34 local brands, all ethically produced “and nothing stays on the shelves”, says Opoti proudly.
Furaha Bishota, a stylish chartered accountant turned fashion entrepreneur, opened her shop in the same mall in February with her brand Cocolili made in Panah, a socially driven manufacturing unit based in a leafy agricultural park near the city. Bishota, a single mother of three, quit a lucrative job with African Development Bank to start a clothing line.
Its time to Invest in the African Fashion Industry | She Leads Africa
“Africans need to put on the clothes made by their fellow citizens as a showcase of support and home pride”.
Africa has become a hub for designers unafraid to create fashion statements embellished in colors as bold as the continent’s sunsets and in prints as culturally rich as its people.
Their designs are cat-walking across runways both at home and around the world from New York to London to Tokyo.
Despite its budding international fame, the African fashion industry has long ways to walk before “made in Lagos” rings the same as “made in Paris.” For the meantime, the paucity of internal and external investment is a barrier frustrating attempts to move forward.
In recent times, African fashion has not just dipped its toes but fully plunged into the world’s fashion scene. Anisa Mpungew, a Tanzanian designer and creator of Loin Cloth & Ashes, says “Africa is not afraid of patterns and colors, that’s the one thing we do in our sleep, so we use it to be louder amongst our foreign friends.”
Indeed, African designers are making bold fashion statements through the complex patterns and colors they dare to work with.
African fashion tells a story — patches of identity are interwoven into the fabrics used and the designs created.
According to Bethlehem Alemu, owner of an Ethiopian shoe company soleRebels, “The global consumer today is hyper-aware. They want authentic and innovative ideas delivered from the authors of those ideas.”
These consumers want the designs to be creations of the African mind and hands and not replicas produced by Western clothing chains.
The fashion industry has the potential to create secured jobs for the African youths of today and tomorrow.