Liya Kebede is a cultural influencer for African Fashion and so are you. Yes, you and anyone with ties to that great continent we call Africa. Liya Kebede successfully catapulted her Ethiopian heritage into the limelight with her development of her LemLem brand. You can do the same. I know it may seem far-fetched, but you, me, anyone can truly become a cultural influencer for African Fashion and here is how:
1) On the meaning of cultural influencer: First of all, it is important understand what is meant by becoming a cultural influencer for African Fashion. A cultural influencer according to Ali Mazuri in his book: The Africans: A triple heritage is anyone with knowledge of “a systems’s values (i.e culture) active enough to influence and condition perception, judgment, communication, and behavior in a given society.” Liya Kebede did just that, her knowledge of her Ethiopian heritage is helping people like Vogue and everyone else purchasing a Lem Lem scarf, recognize the full potential of Ethiopia when it comes to making handmade woven cotton scarves and dresses made by traditional artisans from her country. She managed to create awareness of the interactions within her culture, of the unspoken norms and values as well as the intricacies associated with making luxurious textures. As a Ethiopian cultural influencer, she is working to celebrate and preserve the art form of her heritage so that it can be optimally integrated into the global fashion industry as a luxury product from Africa.
2) The role of technology: We live in a fast-paced society and becoming a cultural influencer for African Fashion requires adapting your ideas for African Fashion into this realm of consciousness. For African Fashion to succeed, we can no longer ignore the power of technology and if not for anything, the role and importance of a media presence, a social media presence to be exact. You can tell a lot about the cultural influencers of African Fashion by visiting their social media accounts. Again, take Lem Lem for example, they are visible, so visible on social media. Whether it is with showcasing people wearing their key pieces or engaging with their followers. They continuously use their social media accounts to show the values that correspond to their philosophy for Lem Lem that are dictated simultaneously by and for the culture. Lem Lem tries to showcase they way we relate to each other as human beings, as well as the way that individuals relate to their products. And conversely, the way we relate to Lem Lem’s products, will feed back into the products they continue to make for their customers.
3) On cultural influencers and branding African Fashion: Without culture there is no African Fashion and for African Fashion to thrive in the global fashion industry, culture is of utmost importance. I believe that culture with its values and habits seriously influence – and often determine – our choices, decisions, emotions, behaviors and yes, our shopping habits. Think about this: the moment the word Lem Lem comes to mind, you immediately conjure those white textures with their intricacies and glorious patterns. Your mind goes to the incredible care taken to make these products. You are given thanks to Lem Lem, a very powerful cultural imprint of Ethiopian heritage which Liya Kebede and her team have done a good job of effectively branding their philosophy on you since your first interaction with their hand woven materials. This is why branding matters. One cannot become a cultural influencer for African Fashion without branding.
Culture itself in many ways has a huge impact on the views of many Africans, their values, desires and worries both as individuals and members of a larger community. Since culture also defines the way Africans view their way of life, it makes sense that for African Fashion to succeed in the larger global fashion industry cultural influencers should be front and center. In fact, African Fashion cannot escape it’s cultural influencers.
Image Credit: Lem Lem