“Fashion must enforce inclusion”, says Naomi Campbell at the opening of Haute Couture Online. Wearing a T-shirt with the legend ‘Phenomenally Black’, the supermodel also said that the industry still has a long way to go. “Time has come to collectively call the fashion world to task regarding inequality”.
After the Covid-19 pandemic, fashion industry players have been discussing more than ever how to implement sustainable practices. But sustainability in fashion also depends on embracing diversity. According to Utah State University, having a multi-ethnic and inclusive team makes companies more competitive and better governed. A lack of diversity is actually hurting brands in specific and measurable ways.
We are living times of uncertainty. However, the complexity of this moment can also bring limitless possibilities. The fashion industry can either go towards power display, exclusion, polarization. Otherwise, it can go towards empathy, creativity, and inclusivity. Fashion journalist Caryn Franklin says “prejudices become firmly entrenched when they are not challenged”.
Based in Baltimore, the Congolese designer and founder of Hanifa, Anifa Mvuemba, gives an inspiring speech for a changing industry. “The future of fashion shows for African designers is limitless. We just need the access and knowledge to bring our ideas to life”. Therefore, thinking about Anifa’s words and the Black Lives Matter movement, we made a list of African fashion professionals. They are from different sectors and are actively helping to reshape the fashion system.
“I want people in 15 or 20 years to be able to see that during the pandemic of 2020. This is what Africans were listening to, watching, and interested in what happened in Nigeria”, says the co-founder of Native magazine, Seni Saraki to Vogue. Native covers not only Nigerian fashion and culture, but also contemporary black issues around the world. The magazine provides an overview of African talents: designers, models, musicians, and artists who are spreading culture across the continent and beyond.
Launched in 2016, it was one of the first to introduce stars like Burna Boy, Odunsi, and Davido to the public in the United States. Showcasing up-and-coming talent is one part of the Native mission. Saraki hopes the magazine will become a time capsule for Nigeria in the 21st century. “As a publication that is based in Africa and focused on African identity, I feel that we have a duty to crystallize this moment and document what’s happening,” says him.
“We really want to continue to disrupt the traditional worldviews surrounding what it means to be an African designer, shop African, or have an African identity”. That is how the founder of Industrie Africa, Nisha Kanabar. Born in Tanzania, she wanted to launch a platform for the perception of fashion on the continent. A virtual showroom, the website highlights the uniqueness of African design, with a directory of over 80 brands from 24 different African countries. Today, Industrie Africa is taking its goal a step further with a purchasing platform that brings sophisticated and emerging labels to consumers.
“No matter where you come from, your dreams are valid”, says the South African designer and founder of Maxhosa, Laduma Ngxokolo. Inspired by the symbolism of Xhosa, embroidered with beadwork, patterns, and hues, Laduma founded the label in 2012. After graduating from Nelson Mandela University in South Africa, he wanted to create a collection of ready-to-wear clothes that reflected his heritage. Recently, the range of products has expanded to include accessories like scarves, beanies, socks, as well as homeware items like patterned rugs. His colorful and graphic pieces caught Beyoncé and Alicia Keys’ eyes. “We’ll be in a luxury aisle next to Mont Blanc, alongside Gucci and Louis Vuitton,” says the designer.