African fashion is hot today--it's one of the most innovative, exciting contemporary design scenes on the globe, from couture to street hip-hop style. Juliet Highet reviews a new book that focuses on four African cities as the centres of this revolution: Fashion Cities Africa, edited by Hannah Azieb Pool.
In the last decade, there's been a huge surge of interest in contemporary African art and design. Now, for the first time, the book Fashion Cities Africa celebrates the emergent or established fashion and style landscapes of four cities at the compass points of the African continent--Lagos, Nairobi, Casablanca and Johannesburg.
The book focuses on style selections by individual key players from each city, and how they reflect the social and political realities of those cities. This includes designers, stylists, photographers and bloggers. Their choices celebrate each city's clothes, jewellery and accessories, evoking the vibe, the drama and creativity of the distinctive cities, as well as their craft heritages.
For far too long books on African design have been written by anthropologists and ethnographers. So now let's hear the voices of those who create and wear it today. As the editor of this book, Eritrea-born Hannah Azieb Pool, says: "The book is not an academic text, nor is it a definitive guide to African fashion. But what I hope is that it provides a glorious snapshot of very different fashion landscapes.'
Lagos--Nigerian is the new sexy
"We are known for being rambunctious and flamboyant," says Tokini Peterside, a strategy consultant specialising in African luxury products. "But here you have to stand out. Otherwise you drown in the noise and volume of people".
For her designs, Bubu Ogisi of I.Am.Isigo draws on everything from the movie Calamity Jane to the Wodaabe Fulani people of northern Nigeria. She says: "What drives us all is the stress of living here, which actually makes you more creative. There is beauty in the chaos!"
"Nigerians are the new sexy. With the spotlight being shone on our creative industry, we can grow and use it to do something positive. It's time to step up and deliver," says Hauwa Mukan, radio and TV producer and presenter. Chinedu Okeke, brand consultant and festival producer, adds: "I want to see our brands consumed in the mainstream internationally. That's where they need to be." And those 'brands' include fashion.
The profile of contemporary Nigerian fashion began to be defined around 2008 with the...