Africa may be a mysterious land to many, yet its design is as acquainted by the world almost as its mystery is unsolved.
Sharp colors on top of flaring glossy laps; sleeveless dresses corseted with a strap and a waving cape to parade; ruffled structure audaciously paring up with glaring beads and vibrant headbands … When you see it, you know they are signs of African styles: the unique threadwork, textiles, fabric, printing, handcrafting and painting.
African elements are to showcase on stage in fashion week in New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Tokyo, Miami and Los Angeles. African fashion being conceptualized by global viewers. Here, you may ask is that not burgeoning if its fashion is on a world stage?
Well, it is not, since African fashion shows are defined by only a limited group of designers who are actually based abroad while local designers are confined by exposure or presence.
Noella Coursaris Musunka, Brand Ambassador for Africa Fashion Week London 2015, for instance, has international experiences as a model as well as a spokesperson for nonprofit organizations, though she is Congolese by origin. And Nyorh Agwe, Cameroonian-American founder of Nyorh Agwe, the luxury fashion brand in the United States, is still striving to release and re-invent her African root bordered by two cultures.
“There are many designers based in Africa,” says Stephen Manzini, founder of Soweto Fashion Week. But growth is still slow because “African designs are more in demand outside of Africa. They are more on a fast track than those in Africa.”
African fashion is recognized, but not yet in vogue at home because home designers lack the same sponsorship and education opportunities their peers enjoy abroad.
What can come to Africa fashions rescue, therefore, is a fine investment, a good eye for apprehending the temporary shackles that once liberated could thrive into wings that expedite the continent.
To attract investments, local governments should consider beefing up tourism to bring out the meaning of African fashion to its own self and the rest of the world.
After all, fashion is like a specialty — only those who have tasted it on a local level can do justice to the true value of it; others are, unfortunately, clouded by speculations or assumptions. Tourism, thus, is the wings Africa ought to seek.