A cluster of contemporary designers have put Africa on the fashion map in recent years. Lagos-born and based designer and LVMH prize nominee Kenneth Ize, for instance, reinterprets traditional Nigerian craftsmanship in his designs. Then, there are luxury platforms such as Industrie Africa (dubbed the Wikipedia of African fashion) which launched a new e-commerce arm to their business last year, where you can “shop brands by region, style and craftsmanship, and use our sustainability framework to make informed choices on your purchases.”
Africa's global fashion presence is only gaining more prominence. In 2022, a new exhibition will be arriving at the Victoria and Albert Museum, aiming to elevate the vast landscape of African fashion. Dr Christine Checinska, curator of African and African diaspora at the museum, tells The Guardian: “it will tell a tale of unbounded creativity and abundance”. Celebrating and championing the evolution and innovation of African fashion, including that of the diaspora.
“In this exhibition we will display pieces and stories drawn from the personal archives of a selection of iconic mid-twentieth century and contemporary African fashion creatives, alongside textiles and photographs from our collection – many for the first time.”
Africa Fashion has been two years in the making. The exhibition, which opens on 11 June 2022, comprises 250 objects that encapsulate the rich style and history of the continent, from home movies to historic family portraits. Such objects will convey the eclectic atmosphere of the African fashion industry over the course of decades. The exhibition spans styles from the African liberation years to the 1950s to the mid 1990s. Designers will include an array of talent from across several African countries, including Kofi Ansah, Chris Seydou, and Alphadi. “It’s important to demonstrate that the African fashion scene didn’t appear overnight,” Checinska added. “This exhibition tells the story of the fashion scene which came out of the years of independence. It will be a game-changer, because we’ll be speaking about African fashion from an African perspective.”
A major component of the display will be copies of Drum Magazine from 1950 to 1970. The iconic family magazine was founded for Black readers, known as “the first Black lifestyle magazine in Africa''. It was particularly influential for capturing life under apartheid, thanks to trailblazing photographers such as James Barnor.
HEADER IMAGE | Kofi Ansah 'Indigo' Couture 1997 - Eric Don Arthur