In June 2022, the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) will pay homage to the radiant and dynamic beauty of African style in their new exhibition Africa Fashion. Chronicling the rise of a continent defined by its miscellany of culture, innovation and talent, the show “will celebrate the vitality and innovation of a selection of fashion creatives, exploring the work of the vanguard in the twentieth century and the creatives at the heart of this eclectic and cosmopolitan scene today”.
Africa’s creative impact on contemporary fashion is both layered and historic; the 250 objects that will feature in Africa Fashion reflect on how its influence has grown since the cultural revitalisation that followed African independence, which made its fashion industry into the contemporary powerhouse that it is today. Much of the archive derives from the personal collections of influential mid-twentieth century African designers and will be showcased alongside visuals and textiles from the V&A’s own anthology- many will be on display for the first time.
Selected by Dr Christine Checinska, Curator of African and African Diaspora Fashion, the exhibition delves into the incredibly complex and wonderfully rich cultural heritage of some of the first generation of African designers who sparked international interest. Exploring the stories of Influential creatives such as Shade Thomas-Fahm and Chris Seydou, the museum hopes to “spark a renegotiation of the geography of fashion and become a game-changer for the field”. Alongside pioneering designers, the exhibition will also explore the role of digital technology in expediting the growth of the fashion industry.
Africa Fashion is guided by “the foregrounding of individual African voices and perspectives. The exhibit will present African fashions as a self-defining art form that reveals the richness and diversity of African histories and cultures”. It is part of a wider initiative to expand its annals to include more permanent work by African and African Diaspora creators. Designer Imane Ayissi said: "This exhibition is a great initiative; it will be one of the first to bring an historical perspective on African fashion and it will show the rest of the world that African points of view on fashion and beauty didn’t start yesterday."
The V&A is issuing a call-out to the public for garments and personal testimonies by those who have worn attire made by the featured designers to bring the exhibition to life. Find out more on how you contribute to sharing the stories of African designers here. You can get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your pictures and memories on social media using the hashtag #AfricaFashion.
Images courtesy of:
©1992-3 (c) Alphadi
© 2020 Fabrice Malard
© 1997 Eric Don-Arthur
© Nabil Zorkot
© 1960-1964 Victoria and Albert Museum