It is no secret that most western inventions have their roots from indigenous African innovations and methods. Fashion is no exception as there are so many trends and designs of clothing that are inspired by the beautiful continent of Africa.
Sadly, in a world where all things good from the continent are not acknowledged as originating from it, the issue of cultural appropriation always seems to crop up, especially when the credit due is not given.
Below, we collated a number of Western style clothing inspired by African fashion. Scroll through to take a look:
Shuka cloth of the Maasai
The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have been the muse of multiple style houses such as Louis Vuitton and Burberry. Their unique clothing style; Shuka, create fashion statements that are very unique. Many described this move by the famous fashion houses as cultural appropriation on their part as they take credit for what is not originally theirs.
The Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative (MIPI) was thus set up to challenge such fashion houses and demand royalties for the imitations of their native garment.
Habesha Kemis of Ethiopia
British designer Matthew Williamson was also under fire when during his 2008 spring-summer show, two outfits were so similar to Habesha Kemis dresses traditionally worn by Ethiopian women. Although Matthew Williamson described it as merely an inspiration, the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office was not too pleased and requested royalties from the designer. Among their argument, it was unfair to have the designer sell his designs at more than 10 times the price local designers sold the garment.
Louis Vuitton fashioned blankets were all too similar to the Basotho style blankets of Lesotho. What got many talking and debating was the exorbitant prices of the designer blankets, which are fairly affordable and accessible to all in the native regions. Some even considered it a theft of intellectual property.
Ghana Must Go
Designers such as Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton were quick to jump on the unique checkered style bags which are popular in some parts of West Africa and incorporate them into their fashion campaigns. They transformed the semi-stiff bag material into uniquely styled jackets and dresses.
They even sold the bags just as they were, but of course, the famous Louis Vuitton stamp made all the difference. Louis Vuitton checkered bags were sold for as much as 1.400 pounds.
The most popular of all fabrics in Africa would definitely have to make a cameo in the list of inspiration. A vast array of fashion campaigns worldwide have been influenced by this colourful fabric. This comes as no surprise as Ankara fabric is one of the most stylish and versatile fabrics on the continent of Africa. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Jidenna and Kim Kardashian have been spotted wearing Ankara fabric in the past.
Rihanna is also a fan of this trend and even wore an Ankara ensemble on her 2015 Harper’s Bazaar China cover.
It seems just like yesterday when wearing dashiki was the trendiest thing to do. Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Zendaya, Rihanna and others showed us just how it was done. One would have thought it was a western style clothing by the way it was made popular in western countries. The Dashiki, however, has its roots in West Africa and played a more serious role in the past, just like berets.
The most popular of the Dashikis is the brightly coloured loose shirt design mostly donned during the summer, though there are many ways this fabric can be worn.
It is evident that Marc Jacobs was inspired by the famous headwraps of Africa during his spring-summer 2018 fashion reveal when models strutted the runway in headwraps. Famous models such as Kendall Jenner and Kaia Gerber were spotted in what is known as the Marc Jacobs turbans which he credited as being inspired by the fashion choices of two white women, though they bear striking similarities to the “Duhku” or “Doek” of Africa.
Take one look at the beadwork of the Emilio Pucci spring summer 2014 collection and it screams African beadwork. Although Pucci is known for vibrant colour, pattern and design in his work, that particular collection must have been inspired by African beadwork, especially that of the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania.