African Fashion Gaining Force in the UK

October 27, 2014 adammediastreetcouk

African fashion is becoming increasingly popular across the world, as trade in the continent expands its reach to a global market and people internationally are realising more and more that Africa is home to some of the most beautiful styles ever created. As we mentioned in a previous blog, African designs steeped in local tradition are now being adopted by fashion-forward individuals in western countries, such as the Basotho blanket which is now even being stocked by high street stores such as Anthropologie.

But is there an issue with people wearing designs that encompass such history and culture without understanding where they come from and their story, or is this simply what happens with trends from across the world? How does the fashion industry avoid merely appropriating African fashion for its own ends? For many years designers and academics alike have been discussing how to recognise the impressive traditions of the African continent without orientalising or homogenising individual cultures. It would appear that giving African designers themselves the leverage to take authority over their style heritage and use it to empower themselves is the way forward. That is what we try to do at Lalibella, and now the mainstream fashion industry is catching on.

Designers such as Mr Mpye says the attitude of African designers is: “If we don’t do it someone is going to come and appropriate it and make loads of money from it, so we might as well do it ourselves and be authentic about it and treat it with the integrity it deserves.” Siphiwe Mpye, a journalist and former assistant editor of GQ, South Africa who hails from the same area as Laduma.

Xhosa ethnic group Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg

In August, Africa Fashion Week London rocked the UK with a vibrant fusion of African and Western design. The event’s ethos lies in providing talented African designers with a platform from which to display their work, closing the gap between designers and prospective buyers whilst giving publicity to the beautiful products of African fashion through media coverage.

Meanwhile, the team also aim to become the primary authority in the UK on African fashion and design. Africa Fashion Week London spokespeople claim it wishes to “turn creativity into sustainability”, benefiting Africa itself by raised public interest in its culture. This is very much in line with our mission here at Lalibella, and so we support the event in showing the world how incredible African art is and how talented its citizens are.

“Africa is hot right now,” says Josette Matomby, a Congolese event manager and fashion designers based in east London who is one of the event’s co-founders. – Burberry

But an increasingly vocal school of thoughts suggests the biggest influencers are a new breed of tech-savvy fashion evangelists who share their knowledge of the latest trends in African-inspired clothing and accessories on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, as well blogs. Shirley B Eniang is a video blogger – or vlogger – with Ghanaian and Nigerian roots who lives in London and shares fashion tips with nearly half a million people who subscribe to her YouTube channel is perhaps the best known examples. Her videos, have been viewed well over 10 million times.

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