Fashion has over the past decade or so seen a gradual increase in the use of African-inspired prints and silhouettes, mainly derived from the West and East African regions. We have seen these influences on the runways of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Valentino, OAMC, and Thakoon, among others. Many thought that like any other trend, African-inspired garments and accessories would peak and fizzle after a season or two.
However, Africa as a reference point has, instead, proven to have significant staying power and has diversified further into other industries, largely because it responds to and speaks to the genuine needs and interests of a large sum of global consumers – black people.
Despite what may appear to be the case, this trend was not fueled by Africans in Africa. Rather, it was initially put forth by African diaspora millennials across Europe and the U.S. – and then carried further by big brands and other entities, alike. As this generation of black youth has come of age, we have seen them look to the cultural heritage of their parents and ancestors, largely borne of an absence of representation in the mass media.
No shortage of these individuals has looked to their ancestral sensibilities and applied them to their own lives (in many instances neglecting to do the necessary research into the various symbolism and appropriate usage of the pieces); they have built businesses, fashion brands, blogs, and other media outlets as a way to validate – and monetize – their interpretations of African culture. As a result, this generation plays a key role – albeit unintentionally – in leading the global narrative on Africa and its fashion (accurately depicted or otherwise), and – more generally – blackness.
In terms of fashion, many African expatriates have been drawn to some of the more performative aspects of African cultures, looking to traditional and traditional-inspired fabrics, beads, etc. What is often overlooked in the modern-day treatment of Africa is the fact that the continent has thriving streetwear, bridal, swimwear, footwear, and jewelry brands with offerings that are capable of seamlessly transcending borders. Still yet, where we can, we are also a vibrant tech-savvy youth documenting our reality and aspirations online.
Despite what you might see on the runway or in editorials, it is worth noting that African youths do not walk around in Kente dashikis and seShweShwe headwraps – similar to how the Japanese youth, for example, do not live their daily lives in Hikizuri Kimonos.
image: Louis Vuitton
Such creations and styling, while the result of African influence, are – in reality – not an accurate depiction of the fashions created or worn by a majority of Africans in Africa today. Instead, they are juxtapositions of indigenous cultural and religious beauty standards, socio-economic circumstances, organic local fashion subcultures, as well as the Western ideals imposed through generations of colonialism and systematic racism with current global trends.
African fashion is a melting pot of ideas and aesthetics unlike anywhere else in the world. That is also often excluded from the global mass media’s coverage of African fashion. In fact, brands based in Africa, which have received the most consistent global attention, are often those that peddle aspects of African-ness that appeal to the white and Western gaze – namely colorful prints and beads – in ways which often lean towards being a form of caricature of that culture. By no coincidence, these are in line with the aspects cherry picked by African expatriates in furtherance of this trend.
Millennials now comprise 37 percent of Africa’s population and 70 percent of the Sub-Saharan African population is under the age of 30, making it the world’s most youthful continent. With that comes a constantly diversifying approach to fashion that deserves to be covered, respected and supported globally, and led by Africans in Africa.
Doctor Who star Pearl Mackie, Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo and others tell the story behind a key piece of clothing in their wardrobe
What I wore when… I went on my first date
Pearl Mackie, 30, plays Bill Potts, companion to the 12th Doctor in BBC1’s Doctor Who. She is wearing white Adidas jogging bottoms, a white vest top and white shell-top Adidas trainers.
I used to wear jogging bottoms a lot when I was teenager. I wore them on my first date, when I was 15. He became my first boyfriend. We went to the McDonald’s at the end of my road and I got a strawberry milkshake and he ordered a banana one, and I was like, “Mate, why you getting banana?” We went for a walk, then sat in the park, and it was really sweet.
The high street is full of all this stuff again now, but I can’t imagine wearing jogging bottoms on a date.I’ve got about 25 pairs of trainers under my bed. I wore a pair of yellow trainers to my Doctor Who audition. I felt Bill would wear something bright.
There are things in her wardrobe I wish I could take, like her red Urban Outfitters jumper or her jeans (I’m quite curvy and they were taken in to fit, so they’re better than any other jeans ever). But they save everything to exhibit at the Doctor Who Experience.
I don’t take clothes too seriously. My wardrobe is a collection of mostly insane items. My idea of a classic white shirt is my grandad’s old white shirt from the 1940s that does up with cufflinks. I like vintage a lot. I bought an amazing Moschino jacket on the Depop app. It’s really bright and fun, and covered in Las Vegas-style pinballs and cars. I went through a phase of buying leather jackets, which sounds expensive, but most of them were about 30 quid. I’m a hoarder and often feel like I need to have a big clear-out. My friends and I often do clothes swaps. The trouble is, I come away with even more stuff.
What I wore when… I became a full-time artist
Model Tali Lennox, 24, showed her first solo exhibition, Ashes And Confetti, at New York’s Chelsea hotel in December 2016.
I found this kimono at Chelsea Flea Market in New York. It’s a really junky, filthy, old-school market. The clothes are pretty scuzzy – old, beaten-up jackets you wouldn’t really want to touch – but last year I found this silk robe and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I used to paint in a T-shirt and stained tracksuit bottoms, and wouldn’t change for about three days, which I found quite liberating after doing a lot of modelling. Then I thought, if I’m going to be a reclusive artist, I’d rather wear something that feels more elegant.
I have a super-colourful wardrobe. Guy friends of mine will get lost in there and come out wearing a little sequined crop top. I love dressing up friends in my clothes and I have a little set-up in my apartment where I photograph them.
I’m obsessed with nostalgia and buy only vintage clothes. I don’t enjoy spending a lot of money on fashion, when you can find a whole outfit for less than £50. I don’t often wear high heels, but I have this great pair of rhinestone-studded platform shoes that my mum [singer Annie Lennox] gave me. I also have some of her vintage jackets and I’m a big fan of costume jewellery, which she has a lot of. She loves giving me stuff, so it’s a win-win situation.
Lately, I’ve been drawn to sparkly colours and pink. I wear a lot of Eric Schlösberg, a New York designer, who is kitsch, weird and unafraid of colour. Maybe it’s to do with the loneliness that comes with painting, but it makes me a happier person. If I’m in a bad mood, I wear pink. It makes you feel better.
What I wore when… I started working at Radio 1
DJ Clara Amfo, 33, presents Radio 1’s weekday mid-morning slot.
I love a tour tee. I collect vintage ones: Prince, Tina Turner, Whitney. You need to have bought it from the gig, or at least be a massive fan. My pet hate is when people wear band T-shirts but have no concept of the music. I’m really particular; I will research tour dates and cross reference them with what I see on eBay, because people often sell fake ones.
I bought this OutKast T-shirt when they played Wireless in 2014. When I started my weekday BBC Radio 1 show in May 2015, I was really nervous, so I chose jeans, trainers and this T-shirt, out of comfort. I wanted to wear something that would make me feel good. Even though I’d been at Radio 1Xtra for two years, I didn’t really know what to expect in the way of attention. I thought, let me wear something that feels like me, just in case there is a snapper outside the building.
Part of the appeal of working in radio is that you can roll into work looking like crap. Other days are full hair and makeup situations. When I interviewed Jay-Z for Radio 1’s Live Lounge Month, I wasn’t going to put on a ballgown for him; but Beyoncé is Beyoncé, and I just thought, there’s a chance she might see this on iPlayer.
The night before, my friend Shirley Amartey, who is a stylist, lent me a load of clothes. Her catchphrase is: “For God’s sake, try it on!” I opted for a Weekday bomber jacket, high-waisted jeans from Asos, trainers and a plain white T-shirt. I would never in a million years wear a Beyoncé T-shirt if I was going to meet her. Can you imagine?
What I wore when… I got my dream job
Makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench, 27, began her career face-painting at children’s parties and is now creative artist consultant for Tom Ford Beauty.
This belt is so not me, but preparing to meet Tom Ford, I just thought: “Cinch that waist!” I found it at an Alexander McQueen sample sale where I go every year to find nice, smart stuff; the rest of the time, I’m in sportswear. This belt signifies something quite powerful, because it’s not a belt that holds up trousers, it’s a belt that accentuates your feminine qualities.
I was surprised to be considered for this job, given my background is quite wacky. But once we started talking about our personal tastes, there was a lot of crossover. Our sense of humour is the same. At one point, I was showing Tom my work on my phone and he took it off me and I said: “Wait! Don’t scroll left, there are nudes!” I like to think that’s what got me the job.
I really admire women who dress up. I think about buying those clothes, but would never wear them. I’m drawn to functional pieces such as La Sportiva and Undercover, anything a bit hard – you can’t wear Gucci loafers when you’re dragging three makeup kits between New York and London. I go out of my way to buy things that aren’t designer. I’ve not seen anyone else wearing Adidas goalie trousers or Salomon trekking trainers.
My first big red carpet event was the British Fashion Awards last year. I borrowed vintage Fiorucci trousers with high-waisted chaps, and they gave me the worst camel toe. I was also wearing the Vivienne Westwood platforms that Naomi Campbell wore when she fell over on the catwalk in 1993. And I fell over. I thought, things can’t get any worse. It’s only up from here.
What I wore when… I reopened the Whitechapel Gallery
I bought this black MaxMara number for the reopening. It was the result of eight years’ work, and £13.5m in fundraising. The thrill of the evening was bringing three generations of artists together, from Bridget Riley to Paul Noble to Goshka Macuga, against the backdrop of a tapestry of Picasso’s Guernica, arguably the greatest history painting of the 20th century.
This was possibly the most exciting moment in my career, so I had to be comfortable. When you’re head of an organisation, you can’t run around looking sweaty, you’ve got to look cool, which is a challenge. I have at least 10 black dresses. It’s a bit like having a school uniform; however much I try to change, I always buy the same thing. A typical day might start with a studio visit in Hackney (they’re full of paint, so you have to watch where you sit), followed by a meeting with the Arts Council, then I might have to speak at a dinner. I’ll add something sparkly – Swarovski rings come to my rescue.
If I had the budget, I would love to wear Céline. When I was a baby curator in the late 80s, I wore horrendous giant shoulder pads, like something out of a sci-fi movie. It was a master-of-the-universe moment for women wanting to assert themselves, but it didn’t look very good in retrospect. I still treasure stuff I bought in the 70s from the Biba store in west London. It had the rudest, most over-privileged shop assistants in the world, but it was achingly cool.
Makeup for Clara, Pearl and Isamaya: Bobana Parojcic. Hair for Clara: Virginie P Morera. Hair for Pearl and Isamaya: Laurence Close at Carol Hayes Management. Hair and makeup for Iwona Blazwick: Sam Cooper at Carol Hayes Management
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MICHELLE Keegan has announced a new fashion collection with Very.
The actress, 30, shared the news by posting a picture of herself in a sheer gold dress from the range.
Looking absolutely stunning, the Our Girl star oozes glamour while posing in the frock in what appears to be an empty theatre.
She captioned the picture: “So excited to finally announce my new fashion collaboration with @VeryUK #VeryxMichelle Available from 25th September.”
In the shot she has shorter dark brown hair than usual, as she holds out the dress – so it can be seen in all it’s glory.
Very also confirmed the news, writing: “Exciting announcement! ✨ We’ve teamed up with @michkeegan to bring you a new fashion collaboration available from 25th September 🙌🏻 Can’t wait till then? Click the link in bio to sign up for the launch #VeryxMichelle”
Michelle also works alongside Lipsy on a fashion range, so is no stranger to designing dresses and then modelling them.
She is also the face of Revlon and regularly does shoots from them in between filming her various TV shows.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for both Michelle and husband Mark Wright because not only is her career going from strength to strength, but Mark’s is too.
The former Towie star bagged himself a job as a showbiz reporter for US entertainment programme Extra.
And the actress could not be prouder of him and as he flew out to start his job a couple of weeks ago she shared a photo to Instagram Stories showing Mark posing next to the famous Universal Studios sign in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Anti-fur protesters caused chaos outside several shows; Burberry was “a little more honest, a little less polished”; and 1990s minimalism is back. The fashion editors and reporters of Styles and T round up the highlights of the week.
Burberry Proved It Was Back in Business With a Standout Show
Burberry has been in flux in recent seasons, with its move to the “see now, buy now” system, the arrival of a new chief executive amid falling sales, and an aesthetic that could be politely described as “in a state of transition.”
On Saturday night it felt like it was finally back in business, with a storming show of streetwise men’s and women’s wear that fizzed with youthful zest while staying rooted in its outerwear signatures and that infamous camel check. In a new site — a former courthouse in Clerkenwell, where walls were lined with photographs documenting British life from the early 20th century to the present — models including Adwoa Aboah and Kaia Gerber strutted through rooms to a soundtrack of Pet Shop Boys classics.
They wore plaid Burberry caps, penny loafers and dazzling shoulder-grazing single diamond earrings (the guys in the show did, too). Fair Isle knits, techy track pants and military uniforms reworked into miniskirts were overlaid with plastic oversize macs and car coats, trenches and Harrington jackets, to impressive high-low effect.
“A little more honest, a little less polished,” was how the creative director Christopher Bailey summed it up backstage. He was smiling as guests milled in a room nearby of portraits and projections shot for him by Gosha Rubchinskiy, king of youth culture. The change in direction clearly suited Mr. Bailey. It suits Burberry too. — ELIZABETH PATON, European correspondent, Styles
The Molly Goddard Show Always Feels a Little Bit Like a Party
With her dreamy tulle dresses and imaginative presentations, the designer Molly Goddard always stages one of the best shows of London Fashion Week. Last year her show revolved around an epic banquet table; the year before it was a runway rave. Ms. Goddard’s presentations make you feel like you want to be in her close circle of friends.
This season was no different. The model Edie Campbell opened the show in a creamy muslin gown, black stretch headband and biker boots. She carried an e-cigarette and a glass of Champagne, and the mood was light. What followed were models dancing, posing and having fun in an array of Ms. Goddard’s signature voluminous dresses. — MALINA JOSEPH GILCHRIST, style director, women’s, T magazine
Duro Olowu’s Riotous Prints Packed Real Punch
Sometimes the best things at fashion week go on behind closed doors; an under-the-radar presentation by Duro Olowu was a case in point. The Nigerian-born designer, who introduced his first collection in 2004, is a favorite of Michelle Obama and Solange Knowles. They, and many others, may covet multiple looks from Mr. Olowu’s latest sumptuous 28-piece collection, inspired this season by Lee Miller, who was a model, an artists’ muse and a World War II photographer.
The show was staged in the drawing room of a mansion in Mayfair alongside a decadent afternoon tea, and Mr. Olowu guided guests through the collection, which married his signature geometric and floral prints with a 1940s-leaning silhouette anchored around the waist. Sleeveless silk dresses with matching jackets rippled with elegance, as did cotton dresses with puffed oversize sleeves and starched wide-leg pants. A mustard-yellow belted trouser suit with wide lapels and cargo pockets, along with a tiered lilac cape with printed trompe-l’oeil style ocher flowers, were also standouts, bringing color and charm to an overcast Sunday afternoon. — E.P.
There Was a Strong Showing For Minimalism, Too
There are certain expectations when you come to London Fashion Week: prints and embellishments galore. So it was refreshing to see a few designers resist the temptation to add a sequin or a sparkle, and stick to more quiet offerings for spring.
The first was J.W. Anderson, who decided to substitute more complicated designs in favor of simpler silhouettes. Margaret Howell, who is always known for her pragmatic clothing, this season showed black knit polos and pleated gray skirts in a collection that was simple and beautiful. And at Joseph, the designer Louise Trotter exercised her tailoring skills with a selection of oversize suiting. Just the kinds of things I’ll want to wear next spring. — M.J.G.
Anti-Fur Protesters Caused Chaos Outside Several Shows
Major names on the London calendar including Burberry, Versus Versace and Gareth Pugh were targeted by animal rights activists, and the protests outside the shows became news far beyond the front row.
Holding up signs with slogans like “Cruelty Is Never Style,” “Animals Are Not a Fabric” and “Say No to Fur,” demonstrators catcalled, spat and blocked entry and exit points to sites, forcing security guards and police to form human barriers so visibly frightened guests could get through.
The rallies, organized by Surge, an organization that describes itself as being “determined to create a world where compassion toward nonhuman animals is the norm,” focused on brands that the activists said had used fur in past collections. A key demand, a Surge spokesperson said, was that the British Fashion Council now ban the use of fur on all catwalks. (None of the shows targeted this season used fur in their spring/summer 2018 collections.)
On Saturday evening, at the Burberry show in the district of Clerkenwell, the scene was especially charged. Protesters tried to enter the backstage area; celebrities including Kate Moss, Anna Wintour and the British rapper Stormzy were heckled with shouts of “Shame on you”; and the show started late because of the situation outside. In recent years, an uneasy truce appeared to have been found between animal rights groups and the fashion industry, with many major brands and retailers banning the use of fur. But this week seemed to suggest there is still more work to be done. — E.P.
One Brand Doubled Down on Faux Fur
That fur debate that flamed up around the edge of the week helped to overshadow a key fact the protesters might well have liked: There appears to be more faux fur around than ever. You even don’t need to take a side on the issue one way or the other to appreciate that Hannah Weiland, the animal-loving designer of Shrimps, is quietly turning out very appealing collections entirely in faux fur and leather.
“All fake,” she said cheerfully, at a presentation on Friday night. “It started with faux fur, my brand. I never have worn real fur. I never would wear real fur. It’s better than the real thing.” This season, she is offering faux fur in a particularly acidulated lime green, and tiered and straight skirts or culottes and matching jackets in faux patent. The upside, she said, is good vibes all around. “It’s so nice getting love mail,” she said. “Rather than hate mail.” — MATTHEW SCHNEIER, deputy fashion critic and reporter, Styles
The Model Who Broke Away From the Pack
Another season, another new class of sullen, lead-footed models. It’s hardly their fault — they arrive in the industry, work a bit and then get passed over for the next ones. But a good walk can make all the difference.
The 19-year-old Dutch model Yasmin Wijnaldum has got it. She’s hardly unknown — she’s quickly graduated to the ranks of the ubiquitous — but she moves with a determined strut that makes everything she puts on look a hundred times better. At the Versus Versace show, I sat opposite the slow-jam superstar FKA Twigs. The only time I saw her crack a smile is when Ms. Wijnaldum got to stepping. — M.S.
Hussein Chalayan’s Show Was Inspired by the Crisis of ‘Like’ Culture
Seventeen years ago, the designer Hussein Chalayan created a bona fide fashion moment at Sadler’s Wells theater in London: He put on a show that transformed tables into skirts, and chairs into dresses. It was an experience that changed the way many in the audience thought about clothing and its relationship to structure and function (ask anyone who was there: we all remember it), and Mr. Chalayan has been iterating similar themes in varying degrees of subtlety ever since. So now that he’s back in the same place — he returned last February after over a decade of showing in Paris — the expectations, and stakes, are high.
On Sunday, he delivered: if not quite the jaw-dropping experience he did at the turn of the millennium, one that was nevertheless satisfying in its maturity, and memorable in its grace. Explaining that he had been exploring ideas of disassociation created by digital culture, he sent out the best tailoring of the season thus far in a series of gray and white trouser suits, shirts and skirts, bunched here, twisted off-center there, volume just slightly askew under hoodies of sheer chiffon scarves that covered the head entirely. At the end, models appeared in evening columns, their faces suspended above their bodies with giant bedazzled frames. Only Mr. Chalayan could make such an unsettling idea so easy to, well, like. — VANESSA FRIEDMAN, fashion director, Styles
We Took a Moment to See Some Art
A confession: After Christopher Kane’s show at the Tate Modern on Monday afternoon, Malina and I bought tickets and sneaked upstairs. The fashion-show schedule is relentless, and the proximity made what was already inviting magnetic. I highly recommend this little bit of truancy. “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” the Tate’s show of black American art between 1963 and 1983, is an eye-opening survey of the manifold ways in which African-American artists worked around, within and against the currents of 20th-century American art.
Some of the artists I knew (Martin Puryear, who is represented here by a fabulous hump of a sculpture; Barkley Hendricks, whose swaggering, heroic portraits light up the show), but many I didn’t. Betye Saar, whose assemblages recall Joseph Cornell’s but whose style is entirely her own, was a revelation to me; so was Virginia Jaramillo, whose minimal but electric abstract canvas had a sharp elegance. “Soul of a Nation” runs at the Tate Modern until Oct. 22. Then, happily, it comes our way: to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. — M.S.
The Festivities Closed With a Tommy Hilfiger Spectacle
Tommy Hilfiger knows how to put on a show. This season, he brought his “see now, buy now collection” to London in the form of a rock ’n’ roll circus. Set at the Roundhouse, a concert hall in Camden, Mr. Hilfiger’s spectacle included merchandise from his Gigi Hadid x Tommy line and a show that featured a cameo from Ms. Hadid herself, as well as from Georgia May and Lizzie Jagger. Guests were served Peroni beers, glasses of wine and fried chicken sandwiches upon arrival. And that wasn’t it: After the 20-minute show, the Chainsmokers performed. Now that’s a way to end a week. — M.J.G.
The spring/summer 2018 collections that showed during New York Fashion Week featured floor-dusting fringe, thigh-high boots and even some crystal-embellished underwear. But in the midst of it all, there were clues for how a person could actually dress. Here, a roundup of tips and tricks inspired by the runways with new ways to wear things — some of which you probably already own.
1. You Can Wear an Anorak Anywhere
It’s not only a sporty jacket — but also a versatile styling piece. At Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta, anoraks were shown over evening dresses, while at Calvin Klein, one came layered beneath a brown checked coat.
2. Have Two Shirts? Layer Them!
Victoria Beckham showed short-sleeved shirts over long-sleeve button-downs at her spring show for a look that was totally fresh, especially because both shirts were in the same fabric. (The key to the look is to keep both a bit oversize and roomy.) This could work with contrasting colors or prints as well — if you dare.
3. White Sneakers Clean Up Nicely
A simple pair of white sneakers: not just for your jeans and T-shirts. Why not try pairing them with a floor-length gown, like they did at the Row? Sure, it may not work for your black-tie gala, but the unusual pairing feels ultramodern — and worth taking for a spin.
4. A Shirt You Can Get Lost in
You don’t have to wait till spring to test drive the oversize shirt look: mannish, giant shirts were all over the runways — and you can wear them now. While some brands, like Oscar de la Renta, opted to show a big shirt on its own with simple white shorts, others debuted ones under boxy blazers and miniskirts with the cuffs and tails peeking out.