Are seasonal collections relevant-in Africa?

SA Fashion handbook Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung

In Africa’s fashion industry, are seasonal collections relevant?

The just completed Spring 2019 collections in Paris have effectively wrapped up the global fashion week calendar. That is, until early next year when the fashion carousel begins again with Fall/Winter collections.

In contrast, fashion weeks in Africa occur mostly as single events throughout the year with the exception of the South African Platforms and Lagos fashion week which now showcases an Autumn/Winter presentation in April, followed by the major runway shows in October.

It’s only the aforementioned fashion week platforms that subscribe in some way to seasonal collections, specifically as it refers to the obvious seasons of Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter.

But are seasonal collections in the traditional fashion sense relevant within Africa’s fashion system?

Well, yes. And no.

No, because most of sub-Saharan Africa’s climate is different.

Papa Oyeyemi, the Founder and creative director of MAXIVIVE who is based in Lagos, Nigeria, says Nigeria happens to be a tropical zone where there’s no winter.  “However, if we are to use the western term, summer all year round would best describe the region. I believe even if designers around here are going for seasons, it should never be the western seasons.”

“Ever since I have known the traditional seasons, I have questioned its relevance in our region, (since seasons are deemed either Dry or Rainy) but no one seemed to have an accurate response to that, and neither did I have the boldness to spear-head a new generation back then.

But with a platform like Lagos Fashion Week, I launched the first Wet season collection which was the beginning of our original seasons. Although this wasn’t well accepted then it’s gaining acceptance now.

Creative director, Deon Redman expresses that change is long overdue.

“To an extent, the very concept of seasonal collections has its origins primarily based in a long-outdated era – a time when each season was welcomed with social gatherings, balls, holiday trips. We simply do not live like this today.

Cultivating a considered, modern wardrobe edit means choices need to be of a more sustainable quality, and design has to transition and blend into existing wardrobes. It frees us from the similarly outdated longstanding dictate of the ‘trend’ and certainly seems a more responsible way to produce, engage with, and consume fashion.”

However, presenting fashion within seasonal themes makes for a common-sense approach.

On the whole, it organizes fashion into a more simple, structured system especially if it’s happening within a planned fashion calendar.

South Africa has distinct seasons, experiencing both winter and summer which means fashion week platforms following this cycle are in sync with the market and by virtue of being in the Southern Hemisphere always in opposition to the international markets.

In Nigeria, Lagos fashion week presents this upcoming October edition under the theme of ‘Africa: Shaping Fashions Future’.Whilst in Senegal, Dakar fashion week synchronized this year’s edition under the hashtag #myafricaiscreative. Both highlight another possible direction.

And for export purposes, designers would do well to be better aligned with the global fashion calendar and its Northern hemisphere seasonal themes.

But with the global fashion system in flux, and recent shifts towards season-less collections and much more, it seems there are no right or wrongs.

There are no apparent or easy answers, but a lot more to consider.

Perhaps a good starting point is a different question – are fashion weeks in the continent designed with a long-term view, to nurture and grow a fashion ecosystem towards its full potential?

Contributing writer: Sibusiso Mkize

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