We’ve Had Enough Of The Flawed Representation Of African Fashion

For those who actually know the true state of any of the various fashion industries across Africa, seeing incorrect representation is unsettling and very infuriating. It has become commonplace for Nigerians who don’t live here to ‘tell Nigerian stories’ to the world and while it’s endearing and stuff, they’re clearly peering in with speckled lenses […]

For those who actually know the true state of any of the various fashion industries across Africa, seeing incorrect representation is unsettling and very infuriating.

It has become commonplace for Nigerians who don’t live here to ‘tell Nigerian stories’ to the world and while it’s endearing and stuff, they’re clearly peering in with speckled lenses

(Photo: Stella McCartney)

We’re not romanticising dashikis and map of Africa earrings anymore, and I wish we still were because that’s much less annoying than the current trend. Right now, we only care about ‘androgynous‘ fashion editorials, swarthy looks and ridiculous, impractical clothes.

I guess we have A Nasty Boy to thank for that (or not, since all they seem to want to do is celebrate ‘otherness’ but not actually embrace that otherness… but what do we know). It is absolutely fine as just an expression of the designer or photographer’s creativity, such as in the case of Mowalola. However, what is irksome, is the incorrect labels thrown about simply for fictionalstorytelling purposes.

Earlier this year, Kenzo made a fashion film for a campaign which ‘celebrated Nigerian youth’. Watch here:

                   

Quick question for Kenzo: when you boarded the flight from the great beyond and got into Nigeria –let’s assume you landed in Lagos and took a road trip to Nsukka – this was all you saw? You saw young people wearing two sunglasses looking fresh off an X-men movie set? You were welcomed by the ‘locals’ in these hilarious costumes to a road side salon? You mean to tell us you did not see the natural beauty at Opi Lake Complex in Nsukka, or even simpler, no big beautiful houses or even some tarred roads? You also didn’t see people wearing ‘ordinary shirt and trouser’?This was the ‘reality’ you gathered from Nsukka? Right…

It didn’t stop there, Nadine Ijewere came from Brixton and did almost the same thing in Lagos for the #StellaBy campaign. We struggle to see the point of Stella McCartney garnishing her ‘African inspired’ look book with bamboo houses and swarthy, famished-looking models posed wearing the most unwearable clothes in Nigeria.

(Photo: Nadine Ijewere)

As if to annoy us more, i-D described this styling and others she has done, saying:

“Ijewere acknowledges that clothing and style are powerful forms of expression with which we might shape our subjectivities.

Her images convey the lived realities of Lagos youth— a narrative of petrochemicals, disposable plastics, hazy sunshine, an obsession with ceremonial headwear, and Thriller-era glam.”

Au contraire, her images do not convey the lived realities of Lagos youth. Her images convey a figment of her imagination, which make for beautiful, creative photos and good storytelling but is absolutely not the case or the norm in Nigeria. It is infuriating to think that white impressionable people will go on to think that Nigerian youth walk around draped in curtains, wearing two sunglasses with feathers in our jeans.

There is more to modern African fashion than the representations that people in the diaspora have been drawn to. Such creations and styling, are in reality not an accurate depiction of the fashion created or worn here today. These editorials peddle aspects of ‘African-ness’ that appeal to the white gaze in ways which often lean towards being a caricature of the culture. It might look cool to some, but it is not our reality.

by Damilola Animashaun for Kombini.com

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