During the past decade, the number of African fashion shows in countries all over the world has grown rapidly, leading industry experts to predict this is Africa’s time to shine.
Most of the new shows are in cities renowned as fashion capitals of the world, such as New York, where the annual Africa Fashion Week was launched in 2009, aimed at raising awareness of African fashion and entertainment professionals. Similarly, in London, the annual African Fashion Week was launched in 2011 to celebrate the city’s rich cultural heritage and its mix of African and Western fashion.
Other countries now hosting annual African fashion events include Holland, Ethiopia, France, Australia and Belgium, to name but a few.
Atim Oton, a Nigerian-born designer, describes the increase in worldwide exposure as “fabulous” for Africa, adding that “design has no borders”. She believes the increase in popularity heralds “Africa’s time to shine” and that it’s not simply a fad, but instead signifies an important shift from traditional one-off African designs into a global fashion industry.
Oton says the shows are a chance for African fashion designers to create viable and sustainable businesses and “epic” changes for Africa.
Designers of African fashion take the reins
Among the designers who have been leading lights in the African fashion revolution is Nigerian designer Fati Asibelua, who created her own fashion label, Momo, in 2000 and later launched her namesake line, Asibelu. Her unique printed textile designs mix traditional patterns with modern shapes to create garments steeped in African culture, with contemporary style.
South African designers Malcolm Klûk and Christiaan Gabriel Du Toit launched KLûK CGTD in 2000, which soon became a favourite among celebrities such as Beyoncé, Rachel Weisz and Charlize Theron. The range features bespoke, bridal and ready-to-wear collections.
A chance for local designers to branch out
Some of the newer designers are currently unknown beyond their own country, so putting the spotlight on African fashion as a global industry will now showcase the up-and-coming designers across Africa.
As Atim Oton concludes, African fashion now has a “global reach” and the fashion shows will continue to increase its audience, creating nothing short of a fashion revolution.