Kimonos may not be a big fashion inclusion for most Africans but the ingenuity of Serge Mouangue, a Cameroonian designer with a global career in design, art direction and luxury textile design, is one that seems to be birthing a new interest for the popular, traditional Japanese clothing.
Created with the blend of carefully selected local African print fabrics and with the support from Japanese kimono designer, Kururi, the WAFRICA Kimono collections are bridging a cultural gap between Japan and the popular West African prints.
Born Cameroonian, raised and educated in France, employed in Australia and pivoted in Japan, Mouangue knows all too well that a singular identity is ill-fitting, hence his decision to explore the idea of blending the rich African print culture with the unique yet traditional Japanese kimono.
He describes his WAFRICA creations as the “encapsulation of both West African and Japanese ancient aesthetics of sophistication, mutual respect for animism and respect for the elders” into what he calls a Third Aesthetic.
Mouangue’s work, which heavily feature African designs on the traditional Japanese garment, are fine examples of an artistic fusion of cultures done right and proving further his belief that the West African-inspired kimonos are more than wearable art – they are physical representations of the meeting of cultures and the potential of cultures to evolve.
Through his designs, Mouangue challenges the tendency of traditions to close themselves off to new lived experiences and new modes of existence.
“Wafrica is about hope and embracing the possibilities made available when the unique treasures brought by each of us are juxtaposed to form a new and enlightened international consciousness.”
While the designs retained the robe’s traditional shape, the fabric used in the creations are sourced primarily from Senegal and Nigeria, according to Nigerian site Konbini.
Mouangue stated that their creation is not an attempt to make a fashion statement nor create a profitable business and commercial venture, but to start a conversation about cultural identities using Africa’s striking motifs and colorful patterns.
Kimonos have been traditionally used in Japan as everyday wear until it was replaced by Western clothes in the 1930s and is associated with politeness and good manners. The garment is now only worn during important festivals or formal occasions.