A Look inside Africa’s Blossoming Fashion and Beauty Industry
Africans have long been very fashionable people. This truism can be traced back to pre-colonial periods – the use of embroidery to beautify colorful clothes, the intricate patterns of women’s braids, and even the use of assorted chalks for makeup purposes. However, never before has Africans’ fashion-consciousness been more pronounced than it is today. The advent of Social Media has provided a much needed avenue to showcase the wide-array of fashion and beauty trends that are peculiar to the motherland. And everybody is taking note. It is in light of this, therefore, that we decided to take a holistic look at the African fashion and beauty industry. What has changed over the years? Who are the pacesetters/major stakeholders? Are there opportunities in the industry? These and more questions shall be examined in the course of this article.
Focus on the Evolution in the African Fashion and Beauty Industry
Since the onset of the 21st Century, there have been some gradual but very significant transformations in the African fashion and beauty industry. First, there was the emergence of a new crop of African designers who have positioned themselves as groundbreakers and game changers. Good examples include the likes of Nigeria’s Deola Sagoe and Mai Atafo, both of whom found a way to incorporate Africa’s “uniqueness” into modern designs. In East Africa, Ethiopia’s Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu established SoleRebels which has redefined the footwear industry in Africa by making use of recyclables to build a global footwear fashion brand, thereby proving to be both profitable and environmentally sustainable. Across the continent, there are thousands of other creative individuals who are contributing immensely towards positioning the African fashion and beauty industry. And they are not all designers, by the way.
The Role of Afrobeats and Nollywood in the Renaissance of Africa’s Fashion and Beauty Industry
Let’s be clear, there was a time in a not-so-distant past when the interest in African fashion was not so keen. Between the late 1960s and late 1990s, a lot of African men and especially women favoured western clothes, shoes, and even makeups. Women preferred to dress like their favourite movie stars, and would often “fry” and strengthen their hair instead of wear their natural hair. Some scholars have attributed this as part of the negative impacts of colonialism and the idea that Eurocentric beauty trends represent the “ideal beauty trends”. Fortunately, this way of looking at fashion and beauty in Africa has since changed considerably, with millions of Africans now demonstrating keen interest in African fashion. Despite this, a great number of Africans still favour foreign fashion items and trends…
EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the rest of this interview on page 18 of our latest magazine edition- 15 Entrepreneurs Disrupting Africa’s Fashion and Beauty Industry. Click here to read now.
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