African Fashion, Global Style: Histories, Innovations, and Ideas You Can Wear

African Fashion, Global Style: Histories, Innovations, and Ideas You Can Wear

African Fashion, Global Style: Histories, Innovations, and Ideas You Can Wear

African Fashion, Global Style: Histories, Innovations, and Ideas You Can Wear

Synopsis

African Fashion, Global Style provides a lively look at fashion, international networks of style, material culture, and the world of African aesthetic expression. Victoria L. Rovine introduces fashion designers whose work reflects African histories and cultures both conceptually and stylistically, and demonstrates that dress styles associated with indigenous cultures may have all the hallmarks of high fashion. Taking readers into the complexities of influence and inspiration manifested through fashion, this book highlights the visually appealing, widely accessible, and highly adaptable styles of African dress that flourish on the global fashion market.

Excerpt

African fashion tells stories. Nigerian fashion designer Amaka Osakwe’s Spring/ Summer 2012 line of clothing illuminates this commingling of fashion and narrative, offering a vivid and complicated starting point for this exploration of fashion from Africa. in just under three minutes, a video created to promote Osakwe’s Maki Oh brand uses clothing to tell a provocative story about an African location and culture. the video is a wordless montage of fragmented, grainy images that centers on a group of women wearing Maki Oh designs. the handheld camera weaves around the women, catching glimpses of their clothing as they enter and leave the frame, checking their makeup or talking on cell phones, illuminated by light reflected off a compact mirror or a car window. They wear clinging velvet dresses, diaphanous white shirts, flowing organza skirts, and shorts adorned with bold patterns in blue and white. the setting does not immediately evoke a specific location: a city at night with apartment blocks and fences lit by the headlights of passing cars; it could be anywhere.

The designs are linked to specific African locations and cultures by a variety of means, textual as well as visual. the promotional materials that accompanied the collection, via the brand’s website and press interviews with the designer, connect the garments to a specific urban African milieu, describing the clothing line as “Maki Oh’s fictional trip into the world of metropolitan African seduction: into the world of the Lagos ‘Reds’.” “Reds,” as the video makes apparent, are prostitutes who ply their trade on the streets of Lagos, one of Africa’s largest cities.

The clothing worn by the Reds subtly projects place and culture conveyed through two layers of sartorial references, one literal and one conceptual. First, the literal: a woman wears shorts made of a blue and white patterned fabric, readily recognizable as adire, a Yoruba resist-dyed textile. Along with the shorts, she wears a sheer white top that incorporates fibrous strands of a loofah sponge sewn . . .

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