Determined to yank African fashion out of the dusty history aisles of her local library, Jacqueline Shaw- award winning fashion blogger, designer and longtime SBA supporter- has re-launched ‘Fashion Africa’, a comprehensive bible for anyone interested in contemporary African fashion. We celebrated the news with some enthusiastic azonto-esque jigs around the office, and not just because some of our SBA designers including Choolips, Sindiso Khumalo and Chichia London are featured in the book.
Fashion Africa is a comprehensive detailing of the best high end and ready to wear African designers, and with all the heat in the African fashion industry at the moment the timing of the re-release couldn’t be better. We caught up with her at the launch party to find out how the industry has grown since she first started her blog Africa Fashion Guide, and her hopes and dreams for its future…
"The African fashion scene had always been there, but now it has transformed itself into a tour de force"
Fashion Africa – according to Jacqueline Shaw
"As a student, I worked part-time in local libraries for nearly 8 years in order to support my studies. I would always find myself drifting to the Arts and Crafts sections, and I found that all the books on African fashion were more historical than modern. I recognized that a contemporary African fashion scene had always been there, but now it has transformed itself into a tour de force that reflected the beauty and talents of Africa in a new, contemporary way.
I’ve been working in the fashion industry as a designer both in the UK and internationally for over 13 years now, so I’ve always loved textiles and colours. The impressive history and uniquely handcrafted textiles in Africa really drew me in, so I curated Fashion Africa to provide a visual overview of contemporary African fashion. The support from the designers themselves was great as they all really believed in the project and gave their time to make it a reality. The deeper I delved into all of their stories, the more excited I became to really give readers a new perception of African fashion, to change their perspective on what they thought it was and to open their minds to what Africa has to offer.
Africa has already become a top new market for production with international brands like Vivienne Westwood, H&M and Ikea all producing collections in East Africa in recent years. Factory fires and accidents in the news as well the ongoing issues within the textile industry of underpaid and mal-treated workers globally, it’s important to me to encourage people to be responsible with their sourcing and manufacturing decisions when working with producers in Africa. I don’t want people to just move production to Africa because they think it’s cheaper, but to see Africa as an opportunity for new partnerships and skills that will enhance business by using inclusive business models.
A Glittering Future
There are eyes on Africa at the moment, with companies like Samsung, Blackberry, Moet & Chandon and Mercedes Benz all supporting, funding and creating shows and events focusing on African fashion. I think more and more people will come to consider Africa as a new market-hopefully more opportunities and, more importantly, more business and trade will go that way. But I do think that there needs to be more investment into buying locally and focusing on the local country’s consumers as they are truly a growing market.
There are so many local designers to choose from such as Laurence Airline, Maki Oh, Sandstorm Kenya, Mafi Mafi and NKWO as frontrunners. They all have a great record of using locally made African fabrics like leather, kente, adire, indigo, shemma. These designers are really exploring African traditional textiles and reflecting this through fashion design in a modern and contemporary way. There will be challenges but that is just how any other industry goes, but from where I stand the future is looking bright for African fashion."
To hear more from Jacqueline and her discoveries of the untold tales in the African textile and fashion industry get your copy of Fashion Africa (£45) here. All images courtesy of Abi Oshodi of AO-Photography.