Africa attracts culture, tech, and a host of other promising enterprises,
especially in the economic sector. Some people do not hesitate to refer to Africa as “the China of the future" on account of the many opportunities that the continent offers. There is however another sector, often pointed out for its lack of diversity, which could also take a close interest in the talents of Africa: the fashion marketplace!
On the occasion of Arise Fashion Week, which took place in Lagos, Nigeria,
designers came together to present their latest collections and testify to the dynamism that inhabits the region. The British model Naomi Campbell took the opportunity to parade in African dresses, and confide in her ambitions for the African continent to the Reuters teams. “There should be a Vogue Africa. There is a Vogue for Arabia - the logical continuation is Africa. It has to be Africa,” she said. “Africa has never had the opportunity to showcase its contribution to the world of fashion, to see its fabrics, products, and designs accepted worldwide. This is not normal.”
In recent years, Western fashion has not hesitated to seize the codes of African
culture. For fashion outlets like we here at Hollo + Kwan and a host of others on Instagram, African-inspired brands are a hit!
However, the idea of talking about "African fashion" is not yet appreciated by everyone. The Guardian published an article in this regard, denouncing how reductive the expression was. "While Western designers are reducing" African fashion "to tribal stereotypes, there are local designers whose creations reflect the diversity of the continent much better," reads.
All these concerns point to the fact that for the idea of a Vogue Africa to materialise, there is a need for stakeholders in Africa’s fashion marketplace to find common grounds. Until then, we must not lose sight of the impact key players are making on African fashion.
In 2014, Nigeria officially became the leading economic power
on the continent. At the same time, Nigerian culture invaded the world. We already knew Nollywood, but we discovered a great wave of talented Afrobeat singers. We even saw Michelle Obama wearing Duro Olowu, a Nigerian creator.
Kuddus Kolawole, coordinator of the association of Nigerian fashion designers for the state of Lagos announced in August 2014 that the fashion industry in Nigeria is worth $ 10 billion. The country takes advantage of its large population and the improvement of the standard of living of the middle class. A large part of the buyers are Nigerians.
Other countries such as Niger do not have as many recognised creators as South Africans or Nigerians. Yet, it has the merit of being one of the first countries in French-speaking Africa to have given fashion a prominent place. Today, Fashion Weeks are multiplying in French-speaking countries. There are sometimes three or four organised in the same year on small markets.
We cannot speak of the impact of fashion on the African economy without talking about: South Africa and its Fashion Weeks and specialised sites, Ghana and flagship creators such as Christie Brown & Mimi Plange, Mozambique with creators like Anita Quansah and designers like Taibo Bacar, or Tanzania and its Swahili Fashion Week. The list is not exhaustive, and more than the impact on the economic results of their countries, fashion manufacturers send an image, a message. They put their countries on the world map, show that Africa is not an entity but a continent with diverse influences and talents. These creators who advocate "made in Africa" give work to cotton producers, often injured by international trade, offer training to sewing craftsmen, open a new distribution market. The chain of "made in Africa" would not be complete without a "Buy by Africa " because to sustain this new branch of our economy, we must trust the creators and buy African Haute Couture.
Beyond the shores of Africa, the demand for African fashion, which was accelerating steadily, has skyrocketed. In the past few weeks, more people in the West consider the use of African fabrics a powerful way of showing solidarity with Black people. Satisfaction of this surge in demand for African fashion can only be sustained by the availability of consistent channels, the ever-broadening customer base for African fashion can rely on for the supply of original African fabrics.
The fulfilment of that role is the reason why over here at Hollo + Kwan, we continue to lift the creative works of local and emerging designers of African fashion into the view of trend enthusiasts in the fashion marketplace.