Who doesn’t like African fashion? Who doesn’t like our bright, boldly colored fabrics, in the form of elegant gowns, styled with our massive head gears? Gowns or skirts in some cases made with lace fabrics or masterfully handed crafted dyed materials that are as rare as the color combination produced. Call it what you want, but everyone loves African fashion. This is African fashion, a fantasy idea for people in a region who have longed and continue to long to be described or counted as one of the greatest in fashion design. African fashion is who I am. I love it just as much as art lovers love their Leonardo da Vinci art. My obsession is to become the voice of African fashion. I don’t take this obsession lightly as I have dedicated my life to now working to ensuring that African fashion has the space to flourish and thrive in the same way that European Designers succeed at what they do.
African fashion to me is also the most beautiful form of fashion in the world. Am I biased? Of course, and you would be too if you can travel to Lagos or Accra, buy exquisite 6 or 12 yards of fabric from the local market and then have a local designer customize a piece to your own body and specification. The obsession is real, something that I have no shame sharing and it’s because I want that local fashion designer and all others with big dreams of becoming the next great African fashion designer to thrive and succeed in the cut-throat world that is the global fashion industry. The iconic designers we have are almost too few to count. We can do more by training the next generation of African fashion designers that will propel fashion and style from Africa to new heights. I have never talked to a designer in person, but I have observed their work and continue to observe it via the many press releases they share of new collections or their showcases at the numerous fashion events they attend.
The most astonishing thing to me is their perseverance, because let’s be honest, it African fashion is not yet lucrative for African fashion designers. The issues are many from lack of investors, to bad leadership or lack of vision. But the golden lights beaming through from the fabrics or headgears we Africans wear, the mixture of red, green or yellow in styles that celebrate the human body is the main reason why we all love African fashion. But that’s also the problem with African fashion, it’s been so well loved that it is tough for it to standout and make a name for itself in this tough global fashion industry. Every new collection from most African Fashion designers almost always received a: Wow, Just Wow or Beautiful. These sentiments are what many feel when they catch a glimpse of the fabrics used or the story told by the African fashion designer. The problem though, is that many of these Wows, never translate to sales. So how can we propel African fashion to new heights? I have an idea, try being authentic.
The real fashion and style from Africa, is not in the selection of Ankara fabrics made in China. This is because African fabrics are not machine made or imported from outside entities that are not African. When Africans began making fabrics a long time ago, we were generous with our colors and used products that were friendly to our surroundings. This is especially true with the material we call Adire or Batik in parts of Africa. Adire has been famous for many years, yet most people do not know its value and would rather sell other fabrics as authentic when this is not the case. I have seen the Adiremaking process in action and seeing what these men and women do to create these unique, one of a kind pieces has given me a greater understanding of the true value of authentic African fashion. Adire is highly valued in Africa because it made by Africans. Everything Africans love about Adire, everything that has dazzled people about this fabric hinges on the fact that it is authentic and a true representation of African fashion at its best. It is probaly why one of the best African fashion designer we have so far Maki Oh continues to receive praises with top celebrities like Lupita wearing her full Adire designs. She is one of the few that understands the value of being authentic with African fashion in her use of Adire. This is important considering that China is poised to be the leader of African fabric-making soon, beating out competitors such as Vlisco. See everyone can become an African fashion designer, anyone can purport to sell you fashion and style from Africa, but few use products that are authentic or truly made in Africa. My goal is to shed light on those that do with the hope of making fashion and style Made in Africa as authentic as Made in anywhere else.