This year brought a welcome reprieve from the COVID era of social distancing. Fashion Weeks were teeming with guests; virtual runway shows seemed a thing of the past, and designer collections reflected a sentiment of freedom through both experimental looks foreshadowing the future, and a nostalgic embracing of the past (Y2K resurgence, anyone?). It feels like fashion as we knew it to be pre-COVID is back and better than ever.
As the year draws to a close, what better time to look back and celebrate the moments that defined African fashion? Read on as we relive some of the most unforgettable moments of 2022 and discover the industry figures who continue to raise the bar.
1. THE V&A’S LONG-AWAITED ‘AFRICA FASHION’ EXHIBIT LAUNCHES IN LONDON
An event more than two years in the making, London’s Victoria & Alfred Museum’s ‘Africa Fashion’ exhibition finally opened on 2 July. A stunning showcase of the continent’s diverse heritage and cultures as seen through the personal archives of a selection of iconic mid-twentieth century and influential contemporary African fashion creatives, this landmark exhibition aims to highlight the creativity, ingenuity, and global impact of contemporary African fashion.
Understood as being part of a wider move to acknowledge the complicated colonial history of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and to bring a more diverse range of voices into the institution, senior curator Christine Checinska has called ‘Africa Fashion’ “part of the V&A’s ongoing commitment to foreground work by African heritage creatives.” Featuring the works of numerous African designers, including some carried by Industrie Africa like Lisa Folawiyo, Doreen Mashika, Reform Studio, Ami Doshi Shah, IAMISIGO, and more, the exhibit explores how fashion is an integral part of African culture historically. It also looks at the work of contemporary designers, stylists and photographers working on the continent today.
The showcase highlights the impact that this new wave of creatives is having globally. Running until 16 April 2023, the exhibition also features a new short film in which our founder and CEO Nisha Kanabar discusses the dynamism of Africa’s fashion industry and how digital platforms are transforming it.
Learn more about the Victoria & Albert Museum here.
2. The year of Thebe Magugu
If you think we mean that hyperbolically, the South African fashion wunderkind’s collaborations with three of the world’s biggest brands—namely Valentino, Christian Dior, and adidas—should be enough to change your mind.
For the September Issue of Vogue, Magugu and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli participated in the publication’s dress-swap initiative where designers were tasked with reimagining each other’s work. Piccioli reconstructed Magugu’s Basotho-inspired suit into a regal hand-stitched cashmere cape, and Magugu responded with a repurposed voluminous parka, blouse, and wide-leg trouser set made from Valentino’s full-bloom, fuchsia-pink Haute Couture ball gown. Magugu told Vogue that he wanted to translate the couture piece into something that a lot of people could wear and see themselves in. This process involved “essentially deconstructing the dress and restitching it, almost Frankenstein-like, into a very elevated trench coat from my universe.”
For his adidas partnership, Magugu created a sportswear line made from recycled materials that made its debut at the 2022 US Open. Worn by players including Dana Mathewson, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, and Félix Auger-Aliassime, the collection titled ‘Finding Beauty’, features a print by South African illustrator Phathu Nembilwi, and consists of gender-neutral and womenswear apparel all rendered in vivid shades of lilac, goldenrod, shock pink, and punch orange.
As for his Christian Dior collaboration, the capsule collection Magugu designed was based upon the fashion house’s iconic “New Look” silhouette introduced in 1947 (a celebration of femininity after years of masculine and utilitarian silhouettes in women’s clothing as a result of World War II). The collection consisted of six wardrobe staples: a bucket hat with bright yellow drawstrings, black and yellow boots, a feather-light tulle skirt, and a silk twill scarf patterned with both the Dior logo and Magugu’s illustration. The collaboration was conceptualized to benefit the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), a foundation founded by actress Charlize Theron for young people in South Africa. The designer closes the year off with recognition from Vogue Business in the publication’s 100 Innovators list.
Learn more about Thebe Magugu here.
3. DANIEL OBASI COLLABORATES WITH LOUIS VUITTON ON UTOPIAN PHOTOBOOK
In “Beautiful Resistance,” created in partnership with Louis Vuitton as part of its Fashion Eye Series, Nigerian photographer Obasi explores and observes Lagos at its most raw. An ode to the queer community in Nigeria and dedicated to young Nigerians who stood up against police brutality and political corruption—particularly at the height of the End SARS protests—the book offers a series of militant yet fanciful images of a vibrant Lagos. Obasi’s art takes the hurt and anguish felt during the time and transforms it into a heavenly world, free from police brutality and religion, where queer people thrive.
“As a queer person living in a country where you’re always demonised, creating work here is a bittersweet feeling,” he explained to Nataal. “On one hand, you love where you’re from but on the other hand, you know that you will never be fully accepted.” Although the initial tone of the project was meant to be somewhat journalistic, Obasi ultimately decided to create intentional images alongside candid shots of the people, places, and elements that define Lagos—a mission that resulted in sometimes surreal imagery that reveals a perspective heavily influenced by Obasi’s upbringing in the bustling metropolis.
Learn more about Daniel Obasi’s “Beautiful Resistance” here.
4. NKWO WINS BIG AT THE CNMI SUSTAINABLE FASHION AWARDS
Recognized for its innovative solutions to combat waste and its invention of the new African textile called Dakala Cloth (a product which was previously named one of the Beazley Designs of the Year), Nigerian sustainable fashion brand NKWO, took home the Bicester Collection Award for ‘Emerging Designer’ at this year’s CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards. An initiative that celebrates the emerging talents of individuals and small brands striving to create a significant impact in the global fashion community from a sustainability perspective, the annual CNMI Awards are one of the most coveted honors in the industry with Bottega Veneta and Prada being some of the other brands being awarded on the same night.
The accolade affirms NKWO’s position at the forefront of the sustainable fashion movement. Hosted at the world-famous Teatro alla Scala in Milan, brand founder Nkwo Onwuka was handed her prize by beauty entrepreneur Olivia Palermo, designer Johannes Huebl, and Chair and Chief Merchant of the Bicester Collection Desiree Bollier. Commenting in her speech on how she believes that disconnection in the industry ultimately affects sustainability practices, Onwuka said: “It’s great that we can cross borders. I think the problem we have in the industry is that it shouldn’t be about ‘them’ and ‘us’, it should be about ‘we’, because [sustainability] is a huge problem and we have to solve it together.”
Learn more about NKWO here.
5. AFRICA’S BRIGHTEST TAKE UP SPACE ON THE BOF 500 LIST
Curated by Business of Fashion’s editors, the publication’s annual BoF 500 is considered to be the definitive index of people shaping the global fashion industry. Inclusion on the list indicates these industry figures’ leadership, creativity, innovation and impact in fashion—and the wider world. Each year, selections are based on nominations received from current BoF 500 members and thorough data analysis and research. After months of extensive scrutiny, BoF editors selected 103 new additions to this influential community, a selection that, this year, included more African names than ever before. These include Adama Ndiaye, founder of Senegal’s Dakar Fashion Week; Nigerian designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture; SoleRebels founder Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu; Glitz Africa chief executive and editor-in-chief Claudia Lumor; content creator Khaby Lame; founder and chief executive of Birimian Ventures Laureen Kouassi-Olsson; founder and chief executive of Marwa Karim Tazi; model and photographer Malick Bodian; South African Fashion Week Founder Lucilla Booyzen; and South African fashion entrepreneur Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe. They join an index representing more than 70 nationalities from over 45 countries worldwide.
Learn more about BOF 500 here.
6. NAOMI CAMPBELL SPOTLIGHTS AFRICAN CREATIVITY IN DOHA
This year, supermodel Naomi Campbell’s charitable organization Fashion for Relief partnered with Qatar Creates (an arts and culture platform located in the region) on a new global program named EMERGE. As part of the initiative, she co-hosted a fashion show, charity gala, and art exhibit held in Doha, Qatar, to uplift “young creative and business talent from emerging regions, with a focus on Africa, the diaspora, and developing communities around the world.”
Funds raised through the event will go to establishing new apprenticeships, after-school programs and university programs focused on creative and alternative industries on the continent, while also benefiting the University of Lagos, the Board of Fashion in Ghana, and the University for the Creative Arts (UCA UK). Held in October, the runway show featured top models from across the globe including Campbell herself, Bella Hadid, Chanel Ayan, Ikram Abdi Omar, Alpha Dia, Adhel Bol and more. Also on show were incredible designs by over 50 leading international fashion houses and more than 20 emerging designers of African descent.
Meanwhile, the EMERGE Art and Fashion Exhibition brought together 27 contemporary creators such as Kehinde Wiley, Delphine Diallo, Patrick Alston, Vania Leles, Victor Ehikhamenor and Larry Ossei-Mensah, alongside seven African designers—Thebe Magugu, Abdel El Tayeb, Bianca Saunders, Artsi Ifrach, Lamine Badian Kouyaté, Nikki Nkwo Onwuka and Kenneth Ize.
Learn more about Fashion for Relief here.
7. LAGOS SPACE PROGRAMME SCOOPS COVETED WOOLMARK NOMINATION
An annual celebration of outstanding fashion talents from around the globe whose work showcases the beauty and versatility of Australian Merino wool, the annual International Woolmark Prize has this year named Nigerian brand Lagos Space Programme as a nominee. Founded in 2018, the conceptual unisex design label by Adeju Thompson is built on a foundation of meticulous craftsmanship. Since its inception, it has consistently showcased an almost futuristic aesthetic, as well as an intelligent design philosophy that prioritizes slow artisanal processes and premium raw materials. Thompson’s compellingly simple collections are made up of bold, oversized knits, deftly cut trousers and tunics, offering a captivating marriage of simplicity and rebellion.
Thanks to this minimalist yet bold design language, he’s succeeded in capturing the attention of an audience far beyond his home country Nigeria, something that’s been unequivocally proven with this latest prestigious honor. “To be chosen as an IWP 2023 finalist is a huge honor,” Thompson said in a statement. “As someone who’s practice has been centered around documenting cultural memories and highlighting their relevance in contemporary culture, I am interested in the ways in which clothing and textiles remain critical parts of African spirituality and creativity, and an important means of livelihood.”
Learn more about Lagos Space Programme here.
8. CHANEL TAKES DAKAR
Announced back in June 2022, famed French fashion house Chanel presented its latest Métiers d’Art show in Dakar, Senegal, spotlighting the work of its specialized maisons, many of which are housed in its 19M complex in the outskirts of Paris. This marks the first time the luxury fashion house has set a runway show in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Chanel historically hasn’t had a presence anywhere on the continent and when the Dakar show was first announced, the brand said: “Dakar is an influential artistic capital on the international scene, particularly in areas held dear to the house, such as fashion, film, dance, music, literature and contemporary art. By choosing Dakar, the House wishes to make the savoir-faire of its Métiers d’Art resonate with the artistic and cultural energy of the city.”
According to Chanel’s President of Fashion Bruno Pavlovsky, this African debut has been in the pipeline for three years, but plans were disrupted because of COVID-19. Pavlovsky also revealed that it will be more than just a show, bringing together local creatives across music, film, and art via a cultural program to transmit technical knowledge between Chanel and artisanal communities in Dakar. The show brought global heavyweights to Dakar with the brand’s ambassadors Pharrell Williams and Gossip Girl’s Whitney Peak in attendance. Next up in the pipeline for this cross-border creative relationship is the specialty exhibition set for early next year in Senegal, showcasing Chanel’s 19M artisans (the brand’s home of over 600 artisans and heritage craftspeople located in the 19th arrondissement of Paris).
Learn more about Chanel’s Métiers d’Art show here.
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