There are now more African and African inspired fashion designers on the commercial circuit than ever before. Designers are bolder, more design savvy and better placed to sit alongside their western counterparts, creating their own marketplace forums at markets, boutiques, fairs, online shops locally and internationally. A growing number of diverse fashion events now co-exist to showcase and promote African designers and design.
The high profile Arise Fashion Weeks take place during the global fashion week calendars and span South Africa (Johannesburg), Lagos Nigeria and New York City. Diversity is reflected on other platforms like Morocco’s exciting fashion event, Festimode and Dakar Fashion Week. In its 9th year, the Dakar Fashion Week was conceived and created by Senegalese Fashion Designer, Adama Paris. Like Arise Fashion Week, Dakar Fashion Week has an impressive list of participating designers. The Africa Fashion Week London maybe the newest on this list of fashion events but is growing steadily, and attracting larger audiences each year.
To the credit of many African Designers making it on their own, their on-mass appeal at domestic, pan african and international levels has done much to boost the awareness, popularity and commerciality of African print in fashion. The wide and creative use of these fabrics that were usually relegated to traditional wear became the fabric of choice for the contemporary designs of many African designers at home and abroad. However, there is a breed of designers of African descent whose creative work is expressive of their cultural heritage, but void of the colourful background of African textiles and/or print. The emergence and evolution of African fashion by Africans has resulted in a global kaleidoscope of diversity reflected in a range of talent competing at global fashion level.
From international talents like British-Nigerian, Duro Olowu and Californian raised Ghanaian, Mimi Plange; to the artistic styles of Paris based Malian, Xuly Bet and Morocco’s Hassan Hajjaj.
Fashion brands based on the West African coast like Ghana’s Christie Brown and Nigeria’s Jewel by Lisa have taken their own unique treatment of local fabrics like Ankara and given them star quality using luxury embellishment, which has since transcended their local audience, making them stars in their own right on both sides of the Atlantic.
Also competing for a slice of the commercial market with fun loving clothing at accessible price points are labels like Bestow Elan and ChiChia, both London based brands of Ghanaian and Tanzanian descent, respectively.
With the boom in fashion lifestyle magazines like ARISE, Canoe, FAB, New African Woman, and online marketplaces like MyAsho.com and Sapelle.com, the commerciality of brands, global marketing and PR are vital to development and growth of African fashion, with celebrity endorsements playing a significant part of its appeal.
Etienne Ebilah – Arts, Style & Culture Writer
Andrea Opoku – Marketing Consultant & Editor of GBM on Africa blog
Helen Jennings, Editor of Arise Magazine