I am just back from Johannesburg, where I spent an intense three days with some amazing African creatives. Having lived on and travelled across the continent over the past two decades, I am a big fan of African craftsmanship and fashion. It is actually a glaring omission not to have featured African designers on this blog—one I hasten to rectify!
Africa is a huge and diverse continent, where many textile traditions, including world-famous batik, have originated. Its fashion is equally versatile: bustling with colour and creativity, often finding new and unexpected ways to use limited resources, making it inherently sustainable.
And African fashion is out to conquer the world. For the fifth year running, Geneva played host to African fashion, art and creativity last month. The annual Afrodyssée trends market brought together designers from across the continent, including 14 who presented their collections at a defile.
Among them was the Congolese fashion designer Liputa Swagga who I first met in Paris earlier this year and who made a profound impression on me with her bold and futuristic creations yet deeply rooted in traditional designs and crafts.
Afrodyssée as an event is also committed to sustainability, and has stringent requirements for participating designers in terms of working conditions, environmental sustainability and preservation of cultural traditions and artisanal savoir-faire of the African continent.
Another designer that I’ve followed for nearly a decade is a Kenyan Adèle Dejak who blends tradition with sophisticated design with her 100% made in Africa jewellery and accessories. She also uses recycled materials including rice and cement sacks, brass, aluminium and glass, and employs some of East Africa’s most talented artisans.
Last but not least, South Africa has a long-standing design tradition, which I have come to appreciate since my very first trip to this Rainbow Nation in 2002. One of my favourites is an iconic designer Carrol Boyes who has succeeded in putting South Africa on the global design map. Her homeware and table top accessories evoke a profound love for Africa, its people and wildlife, and her company has a strong commitment to supporting both.
As a continent brimming with talent and energy, Africa and its fashion has a bright future. And I say with swagger, “L’Afrique, c’est chic!”