Over the years, international designers have been flirting with Afro-Inspired prints. Many celebs have been hitting the red carpet with Afro prints and it seems Solange Knowles can’t get enough of the motherland trend. Elle South Africa carried the Afro loving star in Ankara for her S/S 2012 edition. Vogue UK featured many African inspired prints on the runway for its S/S 2012 edition by designers like Burberry Prorsum, L.A.M.B, Kors and Donna Karan.
Just this spring and summer, J.C.Penny carried Duro Olowu’s Afro inspired line, marketing it to the mainstream fashion buyers. Despite all this attention, I was wondering, what happens to our African style after the trend is gone? More importantly, how much of the international market do our designers who design with these prints really have? How transitional and functional is the African print?
I sat down, with all the African prints I was so excited to order online this summer wondering, OK, summer doesn’t last forever, so what exactly do I make with all these prints? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one wondering the same thing! Milisuthando Bongela of Miss Mili B blog was on the same train of thought. She wondered what would happen when the trend is over. Who are these clothes made for? Who dresses that loud all year round? I wonder too! First of all, if I am not going to an African party or maybe church and I am not seeking to stand out or make a fashion statement, how do I keep rocking my Afro prints all year round? Or are we solely making clothes just for us, by us, for our climate and strictly for our events? How do we sell our vibrant fashion to the western world and have our designers carried in the stores? How can our Afro inspired fashion become functional for the everyday life? How can we make it appealing to even the very modest?
Looking at the different African fabrics, I noticed how beautiful yet bold and loud they all are. Who can really pull that off in the office, going to the store or in the winter (outside Africa)? I know I would really love to. I was about to toss my prints in the closet till next summer when I noticed that as hard as our African prints are hard to work with (if you are going for a more everyday look), some people have been able to tame it quite nicely. Hard, but it has been done.
I discovered some tricks to help make the prints more wearable without looking like a circus clown.
- Pair it with a conventional piece preferably in solid colours.
2. Use the accessory version. That way you take little pieces of inspiration with you without the loudness. Totes by Bola Obileye are perfect compliments for most everyday looks.
4. In the winter (or on rainy, cloudy days if you are in Africa) go for the cooler tones. Most prints in Mudcloth are usually safe. So also are the blue, brown, green and indigo tones.
6. Or just be bold. Make it into everyday clothes and rock it like you have some Solange in your blood!
I guess the key is in personal style. Trends come, go and get recycled but personal style stays. Discovering how to work our African pride into daily conventional styles might be the key.
As for gaining mainstream market, a little research on the part of our designers may get us a permanent place in the stores and we might yet gain the appeal of the more conservative western society. Making more commercial pieces will also make for a good selling point. Maybe I will one day walk into stores and buy nicely made Afro inspired winter jackets and fall clothes. Or maybe I am dreaming. Whatever it is, I would love to wear my prints all year round, transcending into every trend and to everywhere without feeling like I stepped off a high fashion runway.