The fashion industry hasn’t always been able to grasp the fact that African style doesn’t just mean animal prints and Kente cloth, but fashion journalist Helen Jennings would like to change that misperception. Her new book, New African Fashion, highlights fashion designers whose work is influenced by the true spirit of African style.
“Fashion is full of meaningless terms like ‘tribal’ and ‘urban…like the word ‘exotic’ — it makes me cringe,” she tells The New York Times. Jennings is also the editor of the African fashion magazine Arise.
Many designers agree with Jennings’ assessment, and in spite of recent African-themed collections from Burberry and designer Michael Kors, some of them feel that African style is not always interpreted with its international aesthetic in mind.
“We design clothes for the global modern woman who shops in Johannesburg, Milan and Dubai,” said designer Ayaan Mohallim, speaking of the condescension that African style if often met with. The Mataano Spring 2009 collection appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and she and her twin sister are now brand ambassadors for Iman Cosmetics.
The New York Times adds that the key to transforming African influence from one of stereotype to authenticity is in the visual presentation. Read more about the African style resurgence and check out some gorgeous designs here.