Why is Africa not a Trendsetter?


For the past four decades, global fashion trends have notoriously been lead by the fashion savvy in the five major fashion capitals – New York, London, Milan, Paris and Tokyo.

Recently, with the rise of Seoul Fashion Week, South Korea’s capital has joined the ranks of the fashion forward and trendsetting. This has inadvertently lead to more Africans in the world of fashion asking themselves one question: Why not us?

Considering the rise in African-inspired fashion trends across the globe over the past three years, many people assumed this would lead to Africa (at least one city) joining the ranks of the cutting-edge. But instead, the rest of the world continues to take inspiration from across the continent but Africans aren’t benefitting from the popularization of fashion inspired by our cultural garb.

As a continent, we don’t utilize the power of the internet to expose the rest of the world to our own original fashion. Instead we consume and perpetuate the trends set by others (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). In this hyper-connected world, we are bound to be influenced by each other and to create content based on what we’re exposed to. The problem is that too many of us are doing this in place of covering our own industries from our own points of view.

One cannot deny that in today’s digital era the main catalyst behind any trend transcending borders is the coverage it receives in online publications and social media sites that originate in their own countries. As of March 2017, according to research conducted by the Miniwatts Marketing Group, Africa only makes up 9.4% of the world’s internet users. We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Digital in 2017 Global Overview report reveals that Africa recorded the lowest levels of social media penetration on the planet (a mere 14% in 2016). Although these figures show a promising increase from previous reports, they still aren’t large enough to create influence.

To be fair, these figures are due to socio-economic and political issues that the continent still grapples with – that limit how many people have internet access , if at all. Other issues are overpriced internet data, natural disasters and economic instability. A majority of Africans with internet access don’t use it to create online platforms to share our fashion.

Even popular websites and online publications on African fashion don’t cover local fashion beyond the superficial or “Western-approved.” We don’t break our own stories, highlight as many designers as we should and set our own fashion narratives. Yet, as soon as an American, European or Asian sees a gap in the market and seizes the opportunity, there are crocodile tears on Facebook and Twitter.

The simple truth is this: the more we share, the more the world sees and the closer we get to leading global fashion trends. So, start sharing and support existing fashion publications doing exactly what many fail to do.

By Tshego ‘Red’ Mosiane – www.reconnected.co.za


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