Since 2011, the number of online searches for the term ‘African Fashion’ has literally been on a non-stop upward growth curve signalling to anyone who’s been paying attention, that there is something going on here. In your day to day life, you may have noticed the recent resurgence of interest with regards to African Clothing and Fashion. Maybe you or a friend choose to wear a Dashiki every once in a while.
Whatever the case may be, the likelihood is you’ve noticed something; African Fashion is growing. But why may have eluded you up till now.
Below I will describe the 10 key reasons why I think that African Fashion has experienced this recent boom. And why, in my opinion, this is only the beginning.
1. More and more of the African Diaspora are returning home, starting fashion-focused businesses
Many in the diaspora have decided that now is the time to return home and start up on their own. Fashion is a very popular sector for many starting a new business, as this is one of the lowest cost, most well-known businesses that can be started on the continent.
Social media makes it easier than ever to spread enthusiasm and create new interest in African Fashion as a by-product. An example of this can be found with Roz’Umy Couture in Senegal, whose Senegalese founder previously worked in the corporate world, but now produces some of the best traditional clothing in West Africa today. One of the company’s clients is the current President of Nigeria!
2. Social media has enabled greater exposure of African clothing
The ease and reach to which things can be shared and people can be reached has lead to a much broader range of tastes being served. This can be referred to as the ‘Long Tail’ of African Fashion so to speak. So that even those who previously did not really have interest, due to not seeing anything they liked, now have abundant choices.
3. The African Diaspora (especially millennials) are re-learning and re-engaging with their culture
The increased interest over the last few years (due in large part to the increased availability of information from sources such as YouTube and Wikipedia), have lead to many in the African diaspora re-engaging and re-learning their culture. And that includes Fashion.
4. Western fashion has started to incorporate African-inspired ideas
You could hardly watch a model walking down a cat-walk in 2015 without seeing at least some African influence. It is no longer rare to see a Dashiki or Kente colored cloth in major fashion shows and parties around Europe nowadays.
5. Celebrities have begun to embrace African fashion
Celebrities such as Chris Brown and Beyonce have been spotted wearing traditional Dashikis and other African clothing. And as we all know, no-one is a better publicist for fashion than celebrities.
6. Afro-beats has led to increased interest in all aspects of contemporary African culture
And as you might imagine, African culture also includes African fashion. The magnifying glass has been put on African culture in a big way. Interest in contemporary Fashion on the continent is an obvious by-product.
7. The rise of African Art has lead to an increased interest in these things too
African art on its own has seen a huge resurgence in recent years. With many paying millions for the most sought after items in the space. As with the example of Afro-beat, this increased appreciation has a parallel effect on other related areas, such as the Fashion sector.
8. African Fashion is worn more often by people in the Diaspora, leading to more recognition and appreciation
It is now seen as fashionable to wear African-inspired clothing in everyday life. More and more people are being drawn into the niche due to the simple fact that they see others that they know (or in some cases don’t), wearing these clothes.
9. Increased political consciousness has lead ultimately to an interest in culture
With an increased consciousness of issues that affect black people around the world, such as police brutality, many have in sought answers to the question of how we got here and found a new appreciation for the culture and traditions of the past. Fashion and style of dress being a big part of that.
10. The rise of African cinema (Nollywood in particular)
African cinema’s growth, through channels such as YouTube, and VOD platforms such as iRoko TV has massively encouraged the growth of the African cashion sector. With many of the stars in the space regularly showcasing the best the continent has to offer.
Featured photo credit: Elvert Barnes via flickr.com