18 Oct 2012

African Fashion- Print-topia...NOT!

Katungulu Mwendwa- NY fashion Week
Khanga, Leso and Ankara, these prints are now the identifying factor in the fashion game quite especially on the runways of Kenya; multitudes of designers are coming up with designs which feature in what is becoming a seemingly cliche tactic, stereotypical African prints on an over commercialized western trend eg. a peplum dress.

Is this the way Kenyans view African/Kenyan fashion? I think it is quite disappointing for anyone to think that that is simply what African Fashion constitutes of, a collection of loud, bold prints on a specific fabric and   hey presto! You've got an African design. Consequently, people who have realized the popularity and insatiable demand for an African print (which was looked down upon not too long ago) here in Kenya, are creating what seems like a mass distribution of the product which results in a over saturated and over commercialized  fashion market of literally the same item.

The fact that in Kenya, fashion is being celebrated and the effects of westernization appear to be mildly eroding as more and more Kenyans try to find their African identity through fashion, film and music should be celebrated, don't get me wrong, however, it has to be done with tact. One cannot call themselves a designer or call something African fashion because it is typical of Africa but, something is African Fashion because it is exclusive to Africa or from an African perspective, it goes past the surface of prints and digs deep into the culture of Africa for inspiration, from the method traditional African garment preparation to the hundreds of cultures that call Africa home.

The boring affinity for stereotypical African fashion creates that sort of thinking that makes up stupid words like "Ethnic Print/Look/Model" with a lookbook shot in an African Jungle because some individuals are too obtuse to think that Africa could be anything other than an "Ethnic print" and "Animals". Western designers and fashion icons are donning African inspired wear but as that's all well and good it only just scratches the surface and that is not enough for me.

For this reason I would like to honour 2 of my favourite authentic Kenyan designers who have managed to go against the grain and introduce the art of African heritage into their designs;  Patricia Mbela of Poisa and her famous grand, delicate beaded embellishments which are skillfully sewn into her designs, that always serves to surprise and Katungulu Mwendwa of Katungulu Mwendwa whose inspirations and work are drawn from the culture of the entire continent creating fashion that is fresh and new. Their work inspires me because of the artistic skill put into their work and the inspirational stories they weave into their designs making them truly African Designers who are passionately creating brands that will stand the test of time.

Poisa- Arise Fashion Week

Well that's the end of my rant and if you've read this far... well give yourself a pat on the back and give more insight and challenge to The Kenyan "Designer"

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