The exploitation of Africa as a continent and as a people is fast fading away. Over the last few years the media hype around Africa has suddenly been remarkable, no longer is Africa just a picture of poverty, but is now fast becoming a fashion brand. Africa fashion weeks and African designers have fought for the increasing interest in ‘made in Africa’ fashion. The latter has seen some international businesses trying to benefit from collaborations within Africa.
In 1967 we saw Yves Saint Laurent showing off his iconic “African” inspired collection. Following suit and looking to Africa for inspiration have been Burberry, Michael Kors, Roberto Cavalli and Gucci among many who have been part of ‘We do Africa Boom’.
While Africa is recognisably serving as inspiration for fashion collections, it is evident that other countries like Brazil and China continue to still represent as some of the bigger opportunities in consumer markets. Regardless Africa is reflecting a potential to be the next fashion frontier of fashion production.
Some critiques may argue that Africa has been exploited for too long and thus know no other way of living other than being stripped of what is theirs. It is inevitable that some African countries are still lagging behind, considering the vast materials and inspiration that surrounds the continent.
It is arguably true that whilst trying to run to another man’s land for milk and honey, you lose everything you hold dear and are often left with no choice but to return to your roots. Many have left Africa thinking everything western is superior and that the least of western culture is the best of African culture. Suffices to say, this is the error that has influenced many designers decisions daily and their input into ‘seeing Africa differently’.
It is true that without a heritage you have no inheritance. As children of Africa we are too kin to discard of our heritage in order to embrace another man’s not knowing that the reason ‘his’ is superior in our sight is because he holds on very tightly to his heritage. The Romans understood that in order to conquer a people you have to strip them of their heritage and cultural references and entice them to embrace Roman culture. This is something their predecessors had failed to do hence the great Roman Empire.
The Japanese have their Kimono, we have seen Vogue Magazine bringing out some modernised versions of the Kimono. Their clothing is exquisite and has captured the imagination of their own people. A Kimono is more costly to buy than the western dress. To be Japanese is to be authentic so is to wear the kimono. To be a classy, affluent Indian/Asian is to be adorned in your national dress. Whilst our culture is being abused by the self serving of us, as Africans there is a method to it all. What happened to that identity? Who is the motherland? The value of what we hold as Africans will only be known to us as we seek understanding within our own continent.
The introduction of ‘African fashion platforms’ has given vast opportunity to interpret the ‘real’ African heritage to the western world, whilst creating room for growth and enlightenment. We may have been ‘lost’ as a continent, but we are at the state of revival and are embracing our African pride. Africa IS the future… brace yourselves… I am!