?Fashion is made to become unfashionable? (Coco Chanel).
Indeed nothing changes as fast as fashion and every fashion-conscious person must think twice before putting on the garment from the last collection of Dolce & Gabbana. But no matter what new colors, shapes, fabrics or names are in fashion, what we call ?African style? is always omnipresent, starting from dazzling colors and dramatic accessories to specific fabric weavings.
Yes, African style has always been there but not African fashion and while African supermodels like Naomi Sims and Alek Wek were shining on the catwalks of the world?s most fashionable cities, African designers stayed in the shadow.
This paradox has many reasons but the main one has to do with money; Postcolonial economical crisis left little perspective for Africa to develop its own fashion industry. But the continent is now starting to gain its deserved place in the world fashion market as more and more designers emerge with more and more opportunities presented mostly by internet.
In the era of online shopping, problems connected with making your works visible for the masses and spending enormous amount of money on renting the place for your shop, have become the part of history. As a result we get a number of web fashion shops where a customer can get introduced with the works of different African designers who bring the fresh blood to the industry.
For example, web boutique My Asho, created in 2009 by Dolapo Shobanjo, offers its virtual space for more than 30 carefully selected, professional African designers. Here clients from more than 50 countries can purchase pieces of African fashion, womenswear, children’s clothes and accessories, without living their apartments.
My Asho?s policy is to make shopping as simple and affordable as possible. However Internet solves almost all problems connected with the expansiveness of fashion business, but not all. On My Asho?s web-site we read, ?As most of our products are handmade in limited quantities, we do run out of stock very quickly.?
Titi Ademola, a Ghana-based designer and the founder of the KIKI Clothing brand believes that manufacturing of clothes remains the Achilles? heel for African designers:??You get a lot of excitement from so many places but once you get an order, how do you manufacture in large quantities? So, that’s the issue that I’m facing, trying to focus on quality control and trying to ensure that you consistently provide quality and appealing garments to other companies and other markets? she says.
But the limited amount of the garments has its virtues as well – it makes the product unique and thus more valuable. Uniqueness has always been the distinctive feature of African style adding a special appeal to it.
As Ilsemargret Luttmann, a German specialist in African history and a collector of African fashion, has put it, ?Unlike the Western fashion system, which regards trends as a question of marketing campaigns directed towards a mass market, fashion trends in Africa are fostered by individual creativity, personal charisma, and social ambitions.?
In other words, if at some event you wear a dress from an African designer, the chances that you will meet a lady in the same dress at the same party, equals to zero ? privilege that becomes more and more valuable these days.
While western world starts to pay its debts to the African fashion, the latter term itself remains highly ambiguous. Generally we speak about African style and fashion but have no idea about specific differences among the styles of different African countries, which is a typical western approach towards ?the others.?
Today you will never hear the terms like ?Nigerian style,? ?Ethiopian fashion? or ?Ghanaian designer? and changing this kind of attitude will be the next step towards appreciating the continent where even fashion goes wild and becomes breathtaking.