Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An Appreciation For The Art

A while back I came across an image taken of three models backstage at a fashion show for a design brand called Alphadi. For a while I kept the image, revisiting it, trying to find out if there was something hidden within it that I needed to know. Only recently has it passed my thinking process that maybe the reason why I’m so drawn to the image is because it closely resembles my ideals of what fashion is about, or at least what it’s supposed to be about.

“Fashion Designers are responsible for both depicting the times we’re in and also reminding us of the heritage we own and pay tribute to that.”

That was my tweet, March 7, 2013.

And I know see that that is what has kept me going back to this image. The clothes have a sense of history; they tell a story of past in the now and look to the future with optimism. That is something I live for in fashion. The opportunity to tell a story. To create a conversation. To engage fellow humans in a debate about what we communicate to the world with what we wear and how we wear it.

There’s something riveting about wearing so-called traditional (as supposed to typical civilian) clothing. It’s like a physical acceptance, embrace, proclamation of your passion and/or love. I also find it exciting because society has been so caught up with Western influences that we have managed to slightly shun the typical dress of Africans on this continent. The rich tapestry, the symbolic patterns, the emotive colours used to depict different states of the human life-cycle in some cultures. It’s all a lot more storytelling than pretty much any other tradition/culture, maybe apart from the Asians who are also very good with documenting life in and through fabric.

We are Africans. And without delving into that notion, we are a nation of anecdotalists. Why do we not encourage our designers to create a more unique narrative for us to take to the streets? And why do we not encourage them to do it in a modern way that doesn’t take away from the heritage but also looks to longevity in the future? Some might say we have enough people using wax fabrics and prints in their designs, we don’t need it and we don’t all like to wear that. But what are those wax prints being used actually saying? Are they telling a story? Or are they mere patterns the Dutch owned and operated company spots on location and duplicates and resells back to Africa?

We have a deeper, much richer history that can be translated into fashion. I haven’t seen any designer print fabrics with the story of Africa’s evolution on it. We have rock paintings in various locations across this continent yet I haven’t seen a single collection featuring any of these in an anecdote the designer sells.

Anyway, it’s just all a thought. An opinion. It’s been on my chest and in my mind for a while so I thought I’d let it out.

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