When you take a close look at African fashion over the years, you’ll realise just how much it has influenced the fashion industry worldwide. From its vibrant colours to its unique prints and traditional accessories handcrafted by different African tribes, there is no better source of inspiration than our eclectic fashion – a result of our diverse cultures.
To truly celebrate Africa Day, here are six times African fashion – and the African way of life, really – inspired designers worldwide (often receiving serious backlash due to their cultural-appropriating tendencies):
1 The Machangani Bag
South African locals have been using Machangani bags for years. So, when Louis Vuitton came out with their Machangani bag lookalike – which retailed for a whopping R5 000 – they received some serious criticism.
South African designer Marianne Fassler also came out with a similar version in 2017.
2 Basotho Blankets
The woollen Basotho blanket is traditionally worn by the Sotho people in Lesotho.
Louis Vuitton was in hot water after they came out with two-toned Basotho blanket-inspired scarves for their 2013 collection – that retailed for the insane price of R33 000.
3 Ankara Prints
In 2016 Christian Louboutin collaborated with Senegalese artists to launch the Africaba Tote Bag. Each handcrafted bag incorporated bold Ankara prints that originated in West Africa. Louboutin contributed 10% of his proceeds to the La Maison Rose, a refuge for women in difficulty in Dakar.
In 2017, English fashion designer Stella McCartney received criticism for using Ankara prints in her spring 2018 runway show in Paris. And, wait for it, there was only ONE African model in her entire runway show.
4 Head Wraps
The head wrap, also known as a dhuku or a doek (depending on the region) is a colourful piece of fabric that embodies Africa’s rich culture and is deeply rooted in African history.
For his spring 2018 collection, Marc Jacobs sent models, such as Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber, down the runway wearing head wraps that resembled those so inherent in the African culture.
5 Maasai Prints
The Maasai are an ethnic group that originated in Kenya and northern Tanzania. A large variety of prints are ingrained in the Maasai’s culture, including a checked blue and red pattern.
This iconic checked print was seen in Thai-American designer Thakoon’s 2011 runway show, taking form in different cuts and styles.
6 African Beading
The Ndebele, a cultural group living in northeast South Africa, are known for their exquisite colourful beading. In 2014, Emilio Pucci, who are known to make use of patterns and vibrant colours, incorporated this African beading into his designs, including beaded heels.
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