The Future of African Fashion

By Ojemen Cosmas Eromosele

Fashion is a pillar of identity, a sense of understanding ones taste in life, love,and dreams. Fashion is creating a vision for oneself to be projected as an art and shield against the world.
Fashion is a voice we can wear; a voice that allows us represent what we see in our minds and thoughts with what we stand for simply worn on us.

Designers constantly strive to appreciate life, portraying different stories, exploring cultures, our existence, representing all that with the clothes to enrich our existence acknowledge and our values.

I believe the fashion industry as a whole has evolved in alignment with the dynamic environment.
From Dior’s ultimate immersive experience with backstage access to its 2016 (ready to wear) runway show thanks to Dior Eyes, its new virtual reality headset to Tom Ford’s representation of ‘see now buy now’ at his fall/winter 2016 menswear collection which has currently been adopted by Burberry and Ralph Lauren, to name of few; technology has been incorporated into fashion. Especially in the area of customer relations, sales and marketing.
With the overwhelming influence social media has on the approach of fashion houses, designers stay connected with the business and at the same time to the people who dream about fashion, air their views about each collection, giving them a direct feedback each step of the way.

Basically we live in a fast generation and there’s a lot going on. Whilst designers find this exciting, some find this a bit challenging.

Similarly, the African fashion scenery is presently been revamped,undergoing an artistic revolution. Before now, there has been a lot of designers referencing ‘Africa’ on the runways; for instance Givenchy with its 2014 SS.

In as much as we find all this references about Africa, there’s no true appreciation as this designers do not pin point the exact culture/sub-culture these inspirations were derived from; it’s all a rip-off.

Nevertheless, African fashion has been able to break into the fashion industry with its vibrant colors and fun tribal patterns. Sindiso Khumalo the South-African Womenswear designer creates with a special attention to textile designs.

Nigeria’s Maki Oh – who was responsible for some of the looks in  Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Jewel By Lisa and Ikiré Jones, and Adebayo Oke-Lawal who founded ‘Orange Culture‘ the Lagos based androgynous brand.

These and many others have worked tirelessly establishing themselves as international brands beyond Africa.
However, there’s a wave of designers with the perception that being an African brand doesn’t imply the vibrant color and tribal patterns. Maybe we don’t need to conform with the stereotypes to represent our country or continent.
My personal favorite from this bunch  is I.AM.ISIGO a primarily based Lagos brand that seeks to create a striking awareness of how African culture can be fused with an audacious yet minimal design aesthetic.

TZAR a Lagos based menswear brand, is visually provocative, birthed from the love of prints and constantly challenges the conventional approach to menswear.

If you were ever thinking of investing in African fashion (not forgetting the fact that the sub-Saharan African apparel and footwear is worth $31billion dollars), now is the time as a lot of emerging designers are redefining what it means to be an African designer.

The African fashion industry was one  built on the ideas and know-how of the insiders, buyers,  and critics/editors. They were all linked together, dictating the trends, who to let in and let out. It’s all changed now. The industry is all different facets now, and we are coming.

The past was broken with brands fighting to be accepted into the main stream and wave of global fashion, a feeling that built our brands on identity. To push our ethos towards a worldwide view where our stories are being worn and understood from different perspectives. Now, with the coming of technology, as London Fashion Week Fall/Spring has shown us, with more diversity comes more creativity. The ability to allow different minds from different foundations and nations show their sense of style, not forced on by their need to use their local prints to tell the story but incorporating them, their world view, their own push of raising the art of fashion is the beauty behind the scene, the spark that makes London Fashion Week so beautiful.

This shows the potential of what fashion can be if we open more doors to more people, to create. The same idea can be taken into pushing the African fashion to reach its full diversity and potential, as Africans have been absorbing trends, ideas, designs for years. Yet we’ve had to tangle with not only our African prints but also our narrow and s timid views of expressing ourselves.But now we are confident. We know the voice we speak, we want a more flexible continent. Duro Oluwo who recently showcased at the London Fashion Week is an example of this future.

Curating designs that still keep the Africans integrity which is our vibrant colours, our use of patterns merged with designs and abstractions that truly make fashion an art of expressing. The future for us is one filled with lust, love and creativity for the world.

The principle of global fashion moving forward is accepting this new change, this new statement which reads “everyone has style”. With Street Wear making its way to the runway, no longer will the wealthy, tanned figures of humanity hold the essence of taste captive.
This should be reflective following the fashion scene with change. We’ve seen this happen already, as Kanye West, Off-White, and more fashion houses led by black creatives and their team are breaking through on the run way and fashion weeks access the world. Yet the big brands aren’t stepping towards this direction but we see them do it, as brands like Zara and other high-end brands replicate these ideas in their collections but won’t acknowledge the skins behind the idea. We should push for a future where these brands are led by them directly, we’ve already heard Virgil Alboh C/O Off White push to be at the helm of a Fashion House, seen the positive side of it with Olivier Rousteing rejuvenating Balmain and we needed that.

We’ve allowed slowly for this diversity in movies and in art, now we should thirst for one in fashion, to create and have more aesthetics, messages, values garbed into the clothes we wear.

The future of African fashion?
Let’s just say we are the future of the fashion industry in its entirety.

Ojemen Cosmas Eromosele is the co-founder/creative officer of Pith, a fashion house birthed from Africa based ontimelines and identities of minds all over the world. Ojemen  believes we are all connected,
our paths may differ but we’re all still one and this view promotes a more vibrant future for everyone. He’s a passionate follower of the Arts

Benewaah is the lead curator and editor at Harmattan Rain. Her love for music is closely rivaled by her love for plantain.

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