FAB Fashion: West African Fashion – an outsiders view – by Rachael Divers

When I was asked to write a post specifically about West African fashion, I won’t lie to you - I didn’t have a clue where to start. Now, European fashion is a walk in the park to me, I can talk about designers, trends and the latest street-style hype until the cows come home, but West African fashion is definitely a different kettle of fish all around. Quickly scanning through the internet, I was disappointed by the results of what I found for specifically searching up ‘West African Fashion’, but in the wise words of my former South African University tutor, Dean Naidoo: “Google is not God!” This lead me to wonder where else I might find out about the completely foreign fashion trends and street styles gracing the West of Africa at the moment. I was of course lead back to my very own FAB Magazine – obviously – but I was still looking for more. This lead me to think that maybe the West African fashion market is covered too sparsely.

Africa is a huge continent, so it’s a surprising thought that a magazine such as Vogue has not yet dedicated a running issue to the black culture. With the rejection of the blueprint magazine in 2010, the fashion world was left wondering about the values and morals of Conde Nast – the publishing giant who are behind Vogue.

As we know, Black culture has influenced mainstream trends both here in the Western World, and also in the ever growing socialite culture of Africa. Obviously, African trends and fashions are much different to ours here in the UK, but providing a platform such as Vogue would both educate people such as myself on black fashions and expand the market in Africa on the fashion scene. Sure, we have Aspire magazine (promoted by Vogue) and our own wonderful FAB magazine, but if we look into how many British magazines are circulating; Vogue, Tatler, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Grazia…etc it actually shows how poor the market for writing about African fashion is at the moment. Poor in the sense of a thirst for African fashion content but not enough content circulating to quench that thirst.

Afro Caribbean and Africans of course live outside of the country, in places like; Italy, Spain, Germany and even America – and are in full support of creating a prestigious and innovative African magazine. I spoke to an African friend from University who told me: “I think African magazines are a great idea, they’re not too many of them in the market and for people such as yourself who want to learn the culture and fashions, it’d really help. How can you embrace something if you can never find out enough about it?”

Arise magazine. Image courtesy of styleandfocuspr

So why did Conde Nast reject the idea of Vogue Africa? It has been suggested that issues with political and current affairs could have hindered the decision, along with a lack of mainstream, high profile black personalities to constantly feature within the issues. It seems a fairly interesting guess seen as though Vogue Black and Vogue Curvy have been published on the Vogue Italia website, yet we have never seen a version in print. It has also been discussed that size zero European models sell issues of the magazine in affluent societies – which of course opens a can of worms about what or who is deemed beautiful. As the Collective Review reflected: “Black People have an array of skin colouring, hair styles, music taste and fashions that has and will continue to influence many cultures and countries.  The continent is full of interesting writers, princesses and princes, people from the world of sports, a diversity of designers and a whole lot more.” All very true – so what could be the underlying reason for Conde Nast to turn down such a huge opportunity of allowing Africa to share the fashion industry limelight along with its Western World associates?  Some have pointed the finger to ‘Fashion World Racism’ – a harsh and serious accusation to make, and one which Conde Nast have yet to answer.

Continuing my search for West African fashion, I looked into the designers core. One designer I was able to find quite a bit of information about is the rising star, Toluwaloju Olowofoyeku, owner and head designer of Toju Foyeh. She first launched her full collection in 2010 in Lagos, Nigeria at the Arise Fashion Week and Music Meets Runway 2011, also in Lagos. Since then, she has gained credit as a fresh young designer and one to watch. Favouring her collection have been West African celebrities: Tiwa Savage, Oreka Godis and Yvonne ‘Vixen’ Ekwere to name a few.

Her Spring/Summer 2012 collection which will launch online on 31st October offer classic yet still trendy romantic dresses. Luxurious materials and flattering cuts make her evening gowns a hit with women who want to look and feel great. Toluwaloju, the Istituto Marangoni trained designer said: “The inspiration for this collection is truly from the core of who I am…I can absolutely picture my collection on any woman who truly appreciates fashion and its classic glamour.”

The Toju Foyeh logo. Image courtesy of Shadders.net

Although my search into West African fashion did not leave me with a satisfying result, it has convinced me that the African market could really do with more of a boost into the fashion world. Companies like Conde Nast need to realise there is a wealth of beauty and talent in the African market that is currently being overshadowed by the Western World fashion scene. With magazines such as FAB and Arise building up their readership, I feel it is an educated guess to say that soon the African fashion thirst will take hold with more force than it has in the past, and publishing giants will have to succumb to the desire for more content to keep its readers hooked and at the forefront of the fashion conveyor.

Mario Epanya’s cover of the rejected blueprint for Vogue Africa. Image courtesy of dontpanic.

 

Feature image courtesy of dontpanic.

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