BY Sandra Appiah, 12:00am April 13, 2011,

The Rising Global Appreciation Of African Textiles: Authentic or Genuine?

By Chioma Chinweoke & Mazuba Kapambwe

Photo Credit: Getty Images;
The Rising Global Appreciation Of African Textiles: Authentic or Genuine?African textiles fashion has quickly become the quintessential look to be spotted in. Embraced by fashion labels and celebrities alike both here and abroad, the question has turned into whether the support derives from a genuine, authentic place.

African textiles in its earliest form originated from the ingenious Igbo Ukwu tribe of popular West African country, Nigeria. Face 2 Face Africa Fashion editors Chioma Chinweoke and Mazuba Kapambwe examine whether the spotlight on the African textiles is either authentic or genuine.

Since its inception, it appears that the African-inspired look has popped up in many fashion houses such as Suno, Duro Olowu, Jewel By Lisa, L.A.M.B, Deola Sagoe, and Boxing Kitten. Lately on and off the red carpet, Solange Knowles has become the unofficial spokesmodel for Maya Lake’s Boxing Kitten line and she also showcased her fierce loyalty to the rising brand.

The Brooklyn, NY-bred designer, Maya has said that she produced her collection from the vibrant African wax block print fabrics made exclusively in West African countries. Suno, another big fashion label, has Kenya to thank for its flawless visual prints that they are known for. Suno, a New York-based line created by Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis, got major buzz when Rihanna was photographed twice in their designs. The appreciation for African textile is quite strong and necessary from the business aspect for Suno and Boxing Kitten. Most of their marketable power comes from the wax prints that they heavily relied on to produce their handmade collections.

“Shouldn’t the focus be on the fact that Ankara has become more mainstream?” remarked Chioma, Fashion Editor of Face 2 Face Africa. “I think that it’s brilliant that brands are drawing upon Africa for creating their collections. African style is quite unique and one can agree that it’s entirely done by talented tailors. I know that when I have an African traditional wedding to attend, I can count on my favorite tailors to make a one-of-a-kind outfit with a skyscraping gele. I also found that more and more stylists are embracing the African style culture.”The Rising Global Appreciation Of African Textiles: Authentic or Genuine?

Stylists Ugo Mozie and Kanayao Ebi (both Nigerians) outfitted their celebrity clients, Dawn Richard and Angela Simmons in African style houses – Deola Sagoe and Virgos Lounge respectively. Fashizblack Magazine photographed Vanessa Simmons in South Africa, and former Project Runway contestant Daniella Kallmeyer. Mainstream celebrities embracing African style has become the trend  but is it up to the celebrity, the PR team, or the designer to exploit it for the better cause?

Mazuba Kapambwe, a contributing writer for Africa Style Daily, argues,  "While as an African lover of all things Jewel By Lisa ,Christie Brown, and Chi Chia London, I think it’s all a matter of personal preference whether non-African celebs choose to wear African labels or not. It is also up to the PR people of the African brands to reach out to Hollywood celebs and take it from there.”

For many of the African-based fashion labels, they took to befriending big name African celebrities and they also made social media work for them. However many celebrities based in America are looking to African fashion houses to get a unique look for their red carpet appearances and photo shoots.

UK-based fashion designer Ngozi Pere-Okorotie of Zed Eye outfitted her close friend, Nollywood The Rising Global Appreciation Of African Textiles: Authentic or Genuine?actress Genevieve Nnaji, for her two appearances on CNN. Jewel By Lisa is a Nigerian fashion label run by Lisa Folawiyo who used social media to promote her line. Her PR team released a video featuring model Eku Edewor on YouTube called “A Day in Life of A Jewelette” and they also launched a blog where they published the latest inside scoops on their projects such as outfitting Kelis for her recent world tour.

Deola Sagoe also made headline news when The Princess & The Frog Tony-Award winning actress, Anika Noni Rose, wore their Vintage Spring/Summer 2010 collection dress to present a Service Award to Iman. Anika took the initiative by wearing an African designer look because she felt it’s best to wear one to present an award to Iman. Both Kendal Jenner, younger sister to Kim Kardashian, and singer/DJ Solange Knowles looked to Jewel By Lisa bejeweled shorts for their photo shoots for Marc Clarke and Fashizblack Magazine.

South African designer Gert-Johan Coetzee got a red carpet shout-out twice, thanks to Kourtney Kardashian wearing his design to the 2011 People’s Choice Awards and Kristin Cavallari wearing his piece at her Vegas party.

Nicole Ari Parker, who fell in love with African fashion during a trip to her husband Boris Kodjoe’s paternal country, Ghana, was seen in a shirt-dress made by Ghanaian fashion designer Kiki, during Oscar weekend. Ghanaian fashion designers Aya Morrison and Naana B market their line through hosting invite-only trunk shows and participating in global fashion shows. Aya just did a fashion show for the first ever Fashion Mist event in London and she also showcased her work at the 2011 F.A.C.E List Awards.

Naana B’s work has become a favorite of Teen Vogue and Nigerian supermodel Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi. All of these major achievements are crucial to the African fashion movement. The need to The Rising Global Appreciation Of African Textiles: Authentic or Genuine?support African fashion is quite relevant and simply there but can these designers meet the demand of the general public?

Mazuba said, “Also, maybe African fashion designers aren’t ready to have Hollywood celebs wear their outfits. By this I mean every time a Hollywood celeb wears an outfit to a major event seen by thousands of people, a good number of viewers want to order that outfit as such is the power of celebs. Imagine if Beyonce wore (insert African designer name) to an event and suddenly everyone placed an order. Would the African designer be able to mass produce as quickly as the American or global market dictates?”

Simply put, the need to understand whether or not African textiles appreciation is genuine is quite irrelevant because many of the African fashion labels are using their PR goods and their talent to showcase their work. Whether you call it tribal fever or African Ankara, the trend was here before the global world caught up with it.

The African fashion world is fighting it back by concentrating on building their empire through participating in global fashion shows, hosting trunk shows, befriending celebrities, and marketing their line on various social media platforms. The appreciation for African textile arguably is on a rise but it’ll be quite prevalent when the trend gets replaced.



Last Edited by: Updated: March 25, 2016


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