It all began when Italian Vogue released its all black issue in July 2008. Featuring Black model greats like Iman Abdulmajid, Liya Kebede, Alek Wek and surprise, surprise, Naomi Campbell, the magazine set off a flurry of black issues around the world. Amidst a global economic slowdown that nearly drove consumer spending to a stand-still, it came as a shock to see the speed at which the issues flew off international magazine stands. At the time, it seemed like a one-off fascination that would fizzle away quickly. However, fashionistas started to take note in 2009 when partnerships after partnerships started to develop between African designers and top fashion brands.
Take for instance, Nigerian-born British designer, Duro Olowu’s (www.duroolowu.com) collaboration with Christian Dior. In the picture below, Dominican model, Arlenis Sosa wears a Duro Olowu African print jacket and a mini Horizon dress from Christian Dior. The result is a classic head-turner that screams “vintage!” and that exudes an undeniably authentic African flavor.
(Print Princess Arlenis Sosa wears a Duro Olowu jacket (duroolowu.com) with a Mini Horizon dress from Christian Dior and a Dries Van Noten silk pant (neimanmarcus.com). The outfit also includes a Natalia Brilli rope belt (nataliabrilli.fr) and a 3.1 Phillip Lim Spectator belt (Metier) over vintage printed fabric. She has on vintage hoop earrings. On her right arm, from top, she wears two Marc Jacobs flower bangles (marcjacobs.com) and a Stephen Dweck Abalone cuff (stephendweck.com). She also sports a pair of Gucci gunmetal sandals (gucci.com).)
Increasingly, the fashion industry seems to have leapt beyond collaborations and have started designing their own unique African prints. Below Arlenis wears an African brocade jacket from Dolce & Gabbana, an obi belt by Louis Vuitton and pyramid earrings and pins by Alexis Bittar. Seeing a D&G African brocade jacket might not be a huge deal to some, but to me, it evokes poignant, nostalgic reminiscences of African culture and traditions. The richness of the fabric leaps in a way that is nothing short of chic…In my native country, Nigeria, brocades are so commonly worn that I imagine that it is laughable to many Nigerians to suggest that brocades be advertised as one of the emblems of high fashion. As such, seeing the brocade jacket matched with exquisite accessories brought home the richness of an African print that many Africans (including me) have so easily taken for granted.
At this year’s New York Fashion Week, African prints continued to ride the wave of publicity. In a specially crafted edition titled the “African Fashion Collective,” the New York Fashion Week featured several indigenous African designers such as Xuly Bet from Mali, Nkhensani Nkosi who designs Stoned Cherrie, the South African label and Fati Asibelua of Momo, and Tiffany Amber, both from Nigeria. To watch supermodels strut down the runway in authentic African Ankara and in “zebra, leopard, giraffe and snake patterns, printed on hand-woven taffeta, cashmere and metallic silk” literally brought tears to my eyes. Borderline dramatic; but representative of the emotional release that thousands of Africans around the globe collectively effused…
Some might argue that African prints have not become “mainstream,” and that they are confined to the editorial spreads of Vogue and to the catwalk models of high profile runway shows. Wrong. It might be slow but it is gradually and surely, creeping into Main Street. At present, Macy’s, Urban Outfitters and even good old Wet Seal carry African inspired prints at affordable prices.
Whether in Vogue, wet seal or on the frame of a Macy’s mannequin, African prints are rich, bold and fierce! Join the movement. Grab a copy, today!
(For more African prints, see more African designs and collaborations below!)
Lay It On
Arlenis has on a brocade jacket from Dolce & Gabbana (dolcegabbana.it) with a tunic from Suno (Opening Ceremony NYC). The obi belt is by Louis Vuitton (louisvuitton.com) and the Spectator belt is by 3.1 Phillip Lim. The outfit is accessorized with Alexis Bittar pyramid earrings and pin (alexisbittar.com) and a Lisa Linhardt, NYC Vessel Spout cuff (linhardtdesign.com).
The model is wearing a Gold Label wrap from Vivienne Westwood (viviennewestwood.com) and a Balmain black lace top and skirt (Bergdorf Goodman). She also wears a Suno shirt (Opening Ceremony NYC) with a Louis Vuitton Obi belt and earrings. The bangles are by Sergio Rossi; Waga; Louis Vuitton; Fallon; and Eddie Borgo for 3.1 Phillip Lim. The rings are by Alexis Bittar and Abraxas Rex
An Alberta Ferretti embroidered vest (Alberta Ferretti LA) is worn over a Dries Van Noten blouse (driesvannoten.be). A Fallon friendship pin is in Arlenis’ hair. Her earrings are by Alexis Bittar and the gold brass necklace is by Philippe Audibert. She also wears a New Ethnicity Maxi necklace by Christian Dior.
Just Cavalli jeans, blouse and blazer (Just Cavalli New York) are worn with vintage earrings. Theoutfit is accessorized with: a Marios Schwab rope necklace (harveynichols.com), a vintage fabric belt, a 3.1 Phillip Lim Spectator belt (Metier, San Francisco) and a belt from Anouk (3.1 Phillip Lim NY). For jewelry, she wears a beaded Waga African bracelet and a Crumley Kanga bracelet (crumleynewyork.com).
A Prada python print dress (select Prada boutiques) is complimented with a Marc Jacobs plaid voile top (marcjacobs.com), an Obi belt from Louis Vuitton and a Marc Jacobs Rachello hat. Her accessories are a Dries Van Noten silver and gold necklace (saksfifthavenue.com) and a 3.1 Phillip Lim necklace. The bracelets are by Alexis Bittar; Louis Vuitton; Lisa Lindhardt; Marc Jacobs; Fenton; Boss by Hugo Boss; and Dinosaur Designs.
A Gucci python jacket (gucci.com) tops a Junya Watanabe African print dress (Comme des Garçons) over Nolita New Ripple jeans (Lulu). Her jewlry consists of a Natalia Brilli gold rope necklace, Abraxas Rex Goddess necklace, and a Stephen Dweck Golden Coral 7 necklace. The rings on Arelnis’ right hand are, from left, by Lauren Wolf; Alexis Bittar; and Lisa Linhardt New York City. On her left hand, by Alexis Bittar and Fallon. She also has on a pair Louis Vuitton Spicy shoes (louisvuitton.com).
(Edited June 11, 2009)