- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Matthew Robinson
The African style scene may be a distant sight from the fashion capitals of New York and Paris, and may not be renowned for global fashion conglomerates attracting hoards of editors and bloggers every season; but should African fashion really be cast aside, even if it doesn’t cater for a western minimalist aesthetic?
The fashion capitals of the west focus too often on a muted minimalism, replacing colour with neutral tones, elaborate exuberance with sultry functionality, and wild frills with cold monochrome cuts. Western fashion has perhaps become too much of a business, whilst simultaneously losing its claim as art. Designers now cater for their buyers, seeking global marketability and mass consumption, evidently trying to appeal to the general public, not just the diehard fashion lovers. The era of minimalist pret-a-porter and functional daywear has cast a dark shadow on the exuberance of bygone eras of glamour and wealth, turning fashion into something inherently serious and purposeful, rather than an outlet of creativity and positivity.
Africa on the other hand shatters all fashion fads, rejects any cold eyed fashionista, and has a fashion scene where truly anything goes. With a spectrum of colour and carnival inspired cuts, African style definitely puts the fun back in fashion. There seems to be very little in the way of expectation of how to dress, with people’s style ranging from typical western attire, to ancient tribal uniform, creating an interesting melange of old and new, representing a modern Africa on the verge of change. And if the western world is credited with creating metrosexuality and male materialism, it is truly mistaken. With fluorescent pinks and lurid floral cut outs finding their way readily into the wardrobe of the average man, it would appear that men are vastly more in touch with their feminine side than in the west.
Yet African style is not such a distant phenomenon to the western sartorialist, it is in fact closer to western style and popular culture than you may think. Fashion icon and singing sensation Shingai Shoniwa, frontwoman of British band The Noisettes, combines her royal African heritage into her effervescently stylish and radiant outfit choices, to create a unique hybrid between western chic and African flamboyance, which has garnered her nearly as much attention as a fashion muse than as a fearless vocalist.
Exotic and mysterious fashion has been a staple feature of the catwalk in recent seasons, with numerous designers drawing inspiration from the Indian subcontinent. Karl Largerfeld’s masterpiece A/W2012 collection for Chanel fused Indian inspired materials and jewellery with bohemian dreadlocks, to create a distinct mix of east and west. Whilst Vera Wang’s recent show at the Lincoln Centre at Mercedes Benz New York fashion week displayed an Indian minimalist styled collection displaying a western metropolitan take on eastern exuberance. Yet with Indian fashion finding itself the muse of many artists in recent years, African fashion is surely not too far behind. And it might just be time for Africa to make a bold and bright statement and take centre stage in the discerning world of fashion.