African Fashion Goes Global: By Michael K-Poh
After several years, African fashion has finally gone global. Several factors account for this, including the fact that ongoing global recognition, appreciation and adoption of African fashion is driven by contemporary African prints and styles.
For African fashion to go global, there needs must be an ‘African Print’ and an ‘African Fashion.’ However, it is a simplistic to portray or describe an ‘African print’ or an ‘African fashion,’ per se. On the contrary, there are several prints and styles as diverse as the continent and its peoples. Maryanne Mathias of Osei-Duro, a fashion design outfit based in Vancouver Canada, succinctly makes the point that, “Africa is a large continent with so many diverse cultures and ethnicity. It would be impossible to sum it up into one fabric. She goes on to say, “The African aesthetic is very textural, bright and printed.”
Some of the most popular and globally used African prints are Super Wax, Dutch Java, Ankara, Bogolan, Batik, Bazin and Kente. Here also it is necessary to note that with the exception of Kente, which originated in Ghana, these fabrics are of diverse origin, with a rich, unique history. In describing the origin of one of the most popular fabrics, wax prints, used by Vlisco, the Dutch Textile Conglomerate, Priscilla Djirackor, a lawyer and expert on African Fashion, writes, “Interestingly, their [Vlisco] colorful cloths were originally developed from batik, a printing technique that originated in India, traveled to Indonesia, Japan and eventually to Java. The result, a truly global aesthetic that incorporates African, Javanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian and European artistic traditions.”