In 2014 I tracked the influence of African design in fashion for an article I was writing before my beloved Mac Pro crashed. I created this collage highlighting the European brands that not only released African-inspired lines, but also chose models of African descent as the face of their advertising campaigns. The only designers of color represented above are Nigerian designer Duro Olowu and Haitian Italian designer Stella Jean.
While I call it 'Inspired by Africa,' some designers, like Marc Jacobs have come under fire for cultural appropriation, which runs rampant in the fashion industry. One season Jacobs put white models in multi-colored faux dreadlocks; in 2018 the white models were in headwraps. During the entire runway show, there was no homage to their African origin or acknowledgement that headwraps are worn almost exclusively by women of color. But the most egregious comment by the Jacobs fashion team was that the headwraps were 'inspired by white Hollywood.' While it's very clear that designers worldwide are ' inspired by Africa' - inspiration without attribution is an attempt at erasure!
I also tracked the CELEBRITIES INSPIRED BY AFRICA
Janel St. John
Harpers Bazaar’s global fashion director, Carine Roitfeld teamed up with Karl Lagerfeld for this hard hitting editorial of the best of spring/summer 14 trends. “Carine’s Edit” redefines all the fashion staples from tribal to metallics to retro, in this 15 page spread.
The images from Karen Walker's 2014 eyewear launch and campaign went viral. She teamed up with the United Nations' ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative to produce crafted pouches created Kenyan artisans who also served as models.
"African agency. African wit. African beauty. In and of itself. Africa Fashion is also invisible, hidden in the fashion of other people.
It can be and is appropriated and not acknowledged, but you know. It can be hidden in plain sight. Buried in the work of those not African; you can see it if you look. You don't have to look too hard. Look.
There it is: in total command of the space. Built in. An African Continuum."
- Bonnie Greer
Prologue, Africa Fashion
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