Have you seen the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.” In it, Gaston, once wonderfully handsome and muscled, is made utterly ridiculous in the beginning as he examines himself in every mirror he passes. Beast in the end, wins beauty’s love not through his looks, but his gentle awkwardness, his eagerness to please her and his distaste for violence. This movie draws attention to how people’s values or behaviors or even appearance can be interpreted by others. It’s significance also lies in its ability to redefine the terms governing beauty. It is this redefinition that precisely will propel African Fashion forward to new heights. Fashion in many ways today is like Beast, completely self-absorbed and focused on the dictates of few people in Paris or New York or Milan or everywhere else fashion weeks occurs whether in February or September. Like Beast, this version of fashion, dictates the trends we see, is only concerned with colors or fabrics that has significance to an elite few and is willing to advance your version of fashion, only once you have been approved by them. Beast in the end, is simply what this version of fashion is, a Beast.
The beauty of African fashion, is that we do not revolve around this kind of thinking. African fashion reshapes the world it sees, through it’s own imaginations and colors and fabrics that are not dictated by anyone in particular. The context in which our fashion operates gives us coherence and cultural power. For example, you made see it as corals beads on the neck of a woman, but we see it as her power, her strength and beauty as a woman made manifest and professed not only in love, but in unity of so many people around her. Fashion to us, has meaning, beyond strutting down a runway and although we are slowly translating to sales, we can thank platforms like instagram for finally allowing us to show our ideas to the world at large. This is because we are finally meeting in public forums ourselves to debate and discuss who owns the right to fashion. Certainly not the few presently in Beast mode, the version of Beast that remains self-absorbed. They may have defined fashion one way, but today and tomorrow, African fashion will work to define fashion in its own terms, to make our ideas more powerful than ever. Of course the lines have been drawn as there can only be one Beauty. My question, for you now, is which side are you on?