Afrofashinista is the “in” word I learned today at the Africa Fashion Week panel segment with young African designers at the fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City. I was enthused by the passion, creativity and energy exuded by the panelists as they gave their individual reflections and experiences on contemporary luxury African fashion.
The designers, mostly in the twenties and thirties, hailed from all four corners of Africa and the United States and are each making their unique mark in African fashion design landscape.
They tackled familiar questions about whether Africa is a viable market for fashion, the eco-friendliness of their brands, sustainability and marketing. However, what stood out for me, as an all time au-natural Afro-chick was the question of what is an Afrofashinista. What does that look like and what informs that particular heart and mind space. Furthermore, is Afro fashion just a passing trend that will be history in the next five or ten years?
Afro-fashi-nista..sounds young and trendy enough alright. However all were in agreement that African fashion is not a passing fad. It may be perceived as such by popular western fashion houses. However, at its core, it is not a trend and should not be simplified as such. Neither should it be portrayed as the stereotypical busy, bold, colorful prints to pass as African. African fashion is as old and as diverse as Africa and its people.
It is fashion that tells a story that encapsulates the essence of Africa. It is about the fabric, colours, style and the accessories that are combined together to form a contemporary look that stands apart. It is about changing perspectives. It is up to Africans to keep it alive, fresh and evolving. It is a way of life. It is about being proud to be an African and being willing to harness what Africa has to offer and offering that creatively on the international platform alongside what the rest of the world has to offer.
So being an Afrofashinista is about identity, heritage and self-esteem. It is a mind and heart state that does not need to be affirmed by western standards of what constitutes fashion and beauty. An Afrofashinista embraces more natural or ethnic looks and takes Africa to the streets and to the world through consciously adorning a piece of Africa on a daily basis. It could be through something as simple as incorporating African fabrics and colours in to a modern outfit or going fully, bold and brightly traditional. What makes a difference is not in the external layers, it is a state of having Africa being born in one’s heart.
Now, the term Afrofashinista may be a tad too trendy for my liking; but my colorful royal beads and I remain inseparable.
God Bless Afrika!