Have you ever seen a toddler in action? They are constantly relentless in their urge to pick up something they see, to play with it, to touch and feel, to master it if you will. When things are difficult, they never give up. They may cry and cry or try to get the attention of an adult to help them out. No matter what, they simply do not give up until they have gotten what they want. This type of curiosity is the future we want with African Fashion. Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it or think about something until we can understand it. If we as a group, cannot instill this type of curiosity in our every day lives, then we are only doomed to produce fashion that does not linger on in people’s mind. What we need are brands who thrive in the realm of curiosity. They will need it, because fashion from Africa today is in constant flux. Business models are emerging, new technologies are being used and consumer behaviors are evolving thanks to the online presence of many African fashion brand and website. To excel, African fashion will require perseverance, imperfection and bravery. To many of us are taught in life, only those who are perfect are great. The same goes for African Fashion, only those brands that are perfect are great. Well I disagree. I believe only those brands focused on fashion from Africa that are imperfect, that are brave, and curious about things in general or asking curious questions, deserve the honor to be called great.
Curiosity about African Fashion today led me to a post in National Geographic (of all places) by Becky Harlan. The title, “Africa takes it turn on the catwalk.” Read excerpts below, and stay curious with African Fashion, you never know who or what is out there.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, and Ghana, “Men know how to dress,” says photographer Per-Anders Pettersson. He’s breaking down the African fashion scene, which he’s been photographing since 2009. “South Africa has more Western influence. West Africa has special fabric traditions such as Ankara. Some areas have beading, like in East Africa, inspired by the Maasai tribe.” Pettersson’s fashion obsession was born in Johannesburg. He had been working in South Africa for years, documenting the manifestation of a new democracy, when he heard that fashion shows were popular with the growing black middle class and elite. So he went. He attended after-parties. He photographed Fashion Week. He met trendy youth. He was all in. At first, getting backstage was a hassle—they don’t let many people in. But since he’s shown up so many times, fashion show organizers now ask him if he’ll be coming to their shows, which are often experimental. “Many shows are held in interesting locations—on a bridge, on the tarmac of an airport, in museums,” says Anders. Eventually, he was befriended by so many industry folk that even his attempt to act like a “fly on the wall” fell through. “I know many designers and models,” he says. “Too many!”He gained incredible access by engraining himself in the culture, but don’t mistake him for a fashion photographer. He doesn’t want to be one. His behind-the-scenes documentary photos lift the veil, revealing a more candid but still artfully composed perspective on a fashion industry that’s “growing rapidly.” Pettersson says the one thing that surprised him most as he worked on this story was how big fashion and style already are in Africa. “How big the interest is. How many people are dreaming of working in the industry—designers, models, makeup, hair, producers, photographers, bloggers, choreographers. “Africa is such a vast continent with 54 countries. They have so many stories to tell here.”