Fashion has always been much bigger than borders, but for African fashionistas the influence of Europe and New York has been almost unavoidable.
But if what’s just come off the ramps at Lagos Fashion Week is anything to go by, a metamorphisis has taken place.
Unashamedly making use of the best the northern hemisphere has to offer and fusing it with the many varied vibrant fabrics and identities of this continent, African designers have not only come of age, but are starting to exert international clout of their own.
Take for example the designs of Kinabuti (above), a six-year old Nigerian-based fashion house which is crossing borders and uniting cultures by combining exquisite African textiles with Italian designs to create a distinctly Afro-urban look that will pack a knockout visual punch anywhere, anytime. Or there’s the suave and modern look of Ugo Monye – proof that African men’s fashion has matured.
For women, one dare not exclude Gozel Green, the West African fashion house that aims to initiate individual story-telling and to accommodate the unconventional and diverse styles of a multiplicity of African backgrounds.
And then consider Elie Kuame, the Ivorian-raised designer whose creativity and celebration of femininity spans Paris, Lebanon and West Africa. His line of ultra-feminine dresses and gowns are equal part fairy tale chic and fashion-forward, archi-structure couture – and he has found a following right here in the Eastern Cape.
If anything Lagos Fashion Week was evidence, not only of the benefit of fusion, but of Africa busting out of its continental confines and starting to shine far and wide.