There are many young African designers who are sharing their work with the world of social media. Their clothes are all very different from each, but have one common point: they show pride in their African heritage. This is seen in their inspiration from traditional African print and textiles or their view of what the future of African fashion is.
The womenswear brand was founded in 2010 by Maki Osakwe, and prides itself in the clothes that it makes as being a mix of traditional African techniques with modern influences. It aims to make clothes that are sustainable and promote the African textile industry. Their clothes show a strong sense of pride in female African culture and identity. Celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Alek Wek and Lupita Nyong’o have been seen wearing her clothes.
The beauty of fashion is that it is more than practical, it can communicate a lot of ideas about what it means to be human. In the example of Maki Oh’s clothes, she brings in Yoruba mythology with western influences such as literature. Looking at her work, a person can understand the designer’s diverse background. This relates to the experiences of a lot of African people. All sub-saharan countries contain many different cultures, different languages and styles.
Mowalola is a Nigerian menswear designer. Her style is an exciting mix including the influence of the little-known psychedelic rock movement in 70s Nigeria and transport drivers. When looking at her work, it looks like something that has come from another planet, but also familiar. It is an interesting mix of past Nigerian culture and potential future African style. The bright and bold patterns of her clothes are unique because fashion is normally associated with women. By making men the focus of her brand, she is bringing new ideas to what a fashionable African man looks like.
There is no one example of African fashion. This is the main lesson that can be taught by young African designers. The diversity of African culture can be taught in different ways: literature, film, theatre etc. It is also more accessible because it is easily found and visual. Fashion can teach us as much about African culture as a book.