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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The New Fashion Frontier: Africa

Marie Claire South Africa December 2011 photographed by Ross Garrett

Lately there has been a lot of buzz around Africa becoming the next continent after Asia to influence fashion in a major way. And, it just so happens that as I’m writing this post I’ve just locked down plans to take a trip to Luanda, Angola at the end of the year! Excited doesn’t even cover how happy I am to be taking a trip to the African continent. I’m going for a friend from college’s wedding so I am excited to share that memory with her, but I am an avid jet setter so being able to add another stamp to my passport makes it that much more exciting!

Spring 2014 Valentino Ad, inspired by North Africa

The Northern African countries (Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia) have influenced fashion for many years because of their textiles, colors, and architecture the industry has always had an affinity for the region’s tastes. Now more regions are becoming areas of influence because of their manufacturing capabilities, style, and collaborations with the American and European fashion media and brands.


For many years stores such as H & M and Zara have sourced material and manufactured goods in Ethiopia and Morocco. The benefits to being a sourcing hub goes beyond just providing fashion for brands, but can be the catalyst for a country to get out of poverty. Factories provide jobs for people that do not have access to education and advanced career opportunities. Factories can be used to provide clothing for the country itself and allows for diversity in the sourcing market. Asia, China especially, is becoming so oversaturated with the entire retail industry manufacturing goods there it’s necessary for other regions to become skilled in manufacturing clothing to help keep costs down and not have too much dependence on one region to manufacture the majority of the world’s merchandise.

Elle South Africa, January 2013


Each country in Africa has its own style that’s a mix of the heritage, natural resources, and culture of the region. In Nigeria, which hosts an annual fashion week to showcase the work of Nigerian fashion designers, designs are very structured with peplums, big shoulders, nipped in waists with lots of colors. In Morocco the fashion is loose, colorful, and usually infuses jewelry and embroidery into the looks. In Angola, the fashion is more sensual, feminine, and playful in soft colors in styles that accentuate the curves or show off the legs. Publications such as Arise Magazine and New African Woman focus on the fashion and lifestyle of African women. These magazines shed a light on the culture and beauty of African women in a way that is fun, vibrant, and well put together.

2013 Diesel and Edun Collaboration


In February of this year Cosmopolitan Magazine created a website specifically for its Nigerian audience, An editorial team in Lagos and Nigerian blogger, Yemisi Odusanya, run the site. Still serving the content Cosmo is known for beauty tips, tips from sex experts, and fashion all written to appeal to Nigerian women. Something unique about African brands and collaborations is because there is a great amount of poverty in African countries many of the profits from sales are used to help raise awareness or support people who are in need. For example, last year Vans and its Ghanaian counterpart Della created a capsule collection of shoes. There were six items and the purpose of the collaboration was to use all ethically sourced fabrics and provide work for local manufacturers. Also in a way to show the industry the sourcing capabilities of Africa fashion brands Edun and Diesel collaborated on a capsule collection that was made from Ugandan cotton and manufactured completely in Africa.
Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that Africa is stepping up to play a major role in the global fashion industry from sourcing fabrics to manufacturing, and hosting fashion events. Fashion is all about moving forward and finding the next great thing and it seems Africa is definitely on the industry’s radar.

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