African Fashion Designers Are Breaking Away From The Traditional

April 23, 2012  |  

The vibrant, colorful fabrics of African traditional clothes are gaining new life and growing popularity on the global fashion scene. Times Live reports that at a recent fashion show in Lagos, Nigeria, African fashion designers from across the continent showcased their innovative, bold designs and declared their ability to transcend the traditional and raise the bar for unique and cutting edge fashion.

More than 70 designers participated in the Arise Magazine Fashion Week show, including a few from outside Africa. Styles showed a break from the long wrap around skirts with matching tops and head wraps; instead models wore form fitting jumpsuits and pencil skirts all created from the traditional Ankara or Dutch Wax cloth.

“African designers have definitely come of age,” Penny McDonald, one of the organizers of the recent event said to Times Live.

“Our chosen designers all created contemporary, wearable, creative African designs that are commercial enough to transport internationally.”

Designer Tsemaye Binitie, a Britain-based Nigerian designer acknowledged African fashion’s move to a global direction. He launched his own label by the same name two years ago, and says his business is one of those doing more contemporary styles. Nigerian designer Maureen Ikem Okogwu-Ikokwu, based in Thailand, notes that it seems to be Africa’s time

“In Bangkok, people love it because it’s something different. It’s something new. It’s something vibrant,” said Okogwu-Ikokwu said.

Not all of the fashion designers focused simply on westernizing African styles. Designer Loza Maleombho from Ivory Coast stood out from most with her collection completely made from traditional African textiles, including fabric from her own country as well as Ghana’s bright cotton kente cloth. Her models proudly wore brown turbans traditionally worn by Tuareg nomads. Nigerian designer Maki Oh’s styles showcased baggy trousers reminiscent of the men’s agbada suit, made from the traditional aso-oke loom woven fabric.

“Africa is quite a new emerging fashion centre,” South African designer Malcolm Kluk said to Times Live. “Europe and America are quite saturated in terms of fashion. If you think of Prada and Gucci – there’s almost one in every street corner now. If one is looking for new fashion frontiers, maybe Africa will be that.”

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