African Catwalk

Models wait backstage before a show at Joburg Fashion Week on March 30, 2012, in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by: Per-Anders Pettersson)
Models wait backstage before a show at Joburg Fashion Week on March 30, 2012, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Per-Anders Pettersson / Kontinent

By Per-Anders Pettersson – African culture has always been seen as being influential anthropologically, but never as a fashion presence in its own right,” says designer Duro Olowu. Africa is traditionally known for its poverty, corruption, and ethnic fighting. A new modern Africa is growing rapidly. Some of the fastest growing economies in the world are now in Africa. Many companies and individuals around the world are also looking at Africa as the last continent to develop on the planet. With a billion people and 54 independent countries and a massive growing middle-class that is starting to have money to spend on luxury items. The fashion industry is growing rapidly and designers from all over Africa are trying to make a mark. There are ever-increasing new fashion weeks in Africa. South Africa has an established fashion scene and runs six fashion weeks year. Others are held in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kinshasa, DRC, Senegal, Ghana etc.
Many of the wealthy people are attracted to the fancy after parties and model parties during these fashion weeks. Many African models are also discovered at these events and at local beauty pageants. Most of them are based in South Africa but some work in Europe and New York. Many of them dream of becoming the next Naomi Campbell or Alek Wek who was born in Sudan. South Africa is the leading country in fashion on the continent and of course the biggest economy. Nigeria is a quickly growing market with 170 million people, some of them now having money to spend on luxury items and brands. Many of the middle-class and newly rich in Africa spend most of their money on foreign brands but local brands are trying to catch up. Some of the most talented African designers are South Africans David Tlale, Gavin Rajah, Thula Sindi, Taibo Bacar (Mozambique) Deola Sagoe, Folake and Jewel by Liza from Nigeria. The fashion is often very colorful and with African influences varying from region to region. The craftsmanship and quality is not yet up to European standard but many are trying hard to improve. Many people in Africa are obsessed with style, for example in Soweto and Kinshasa, DRC. The Smarteez designers in Soweto, South Africa are an example and the Sappers in Kinshasa, DRC.