WHY AFRICAN MENSWEAR IS NOW GLOBAL
“Let there be no mistake: African menswear is no longer the remote, misunderstood exotic relative; but rather an integrated part of the global fashion family.,” concludes Mazzi Odu, writing on one of the web’s leading fashion news websites for www.businessfofashion.com
His analysis and interviews with African-influenced designers, based around the world, reinforces the message that African design is no longer a quirky addition but has established itself as an integral part of the global fashion scene.
Writer Odu looks at the pioneering efforts of many designers including Omoyemi Akerele (pictured left), founder of Lagos Fashion and Design Wee, which he suggests is significant. He writes: “Over the past seven years, Akerele has lobbied for the local and wider African fashion industries both at home and abroad. She has taken advantage of her global network and convening power to seek solutions to the particular challenges faced by African brands and provided a considerable platform for menswear designers from the continent.”
She told him: “Menswear collections keep getting stronger season in, season out. And with the extension of the LFDW platform beyond Nigerian designers to a pan-African platform, there’s an increasing need to create programmes solely dedicated to promoting menswear via the platform,” pointing to the need to better “connect the dots”, ensuring designers, retailers, financiers and representatives of legislation bodies work in concert to create an ecosystem that is conducive to supporting the industry long term.
The menswear renaissance in Africa would be nothing without its local retail champions. Three Nigerian retailers at the vanguard are Temple Muse, Alara and Stranger. As the oldest of the three, Temple Muse, founded by former Selfridgesbuyer Avi Wadhwani and his brother Kabir Wadhwani, has enjoyed many retailing firsts: acting as a launch pad for African-grown talent such as Tzar Studio (pictured above, geometric jumper) and Kelechi Odu and more recently the highly-anticipated collaboration between Ugo Mozie and Bailey Hats. They were also first to showcase Balmain and Lanvin menswear.
African menswear designers like Oke-Lawal are increasingly visible on the global fashion calendar and in demand from international retailers, says Odu. “Take South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo, whose brand MaXhosa by Laduma was exhibited for a third time at this month’s Pitti Immagine Uomo in Florence, or the Côte d’Ivoire-raised Alexis Temomanin, whose label Dent De Man is sold as far afield as Barneys New York, American Rag in Tokyo and Joyce in Hong Kong. For its part, Orange Culture is available in Church Boutique in Los Angeles and Utter Couture in London.”
Produced in her native Côte d’Ivoire, Buthaud is quick to highlight the brand’s European influences, given the emphasis she places on having footholds in both Paris and Abidjan. Culture clash is explored further by Dent De Man, who since an explosive 2015 showing at Pitti Immagine Uomo, has continued to hone its offering of suiting in heritage Indonesian wax prints informed by founder Alexis Temomanin’s Ivorian ancestry and his East London location.
A similar cross-pollination in ideation and execution is seen in Okun, a haute beachwear brand that is giving market leader Vilebrequin a valiant run for its money – at least in the design stakes. Nigerian-born, British-based creative director Bola Marquis was keen from the outset to create an international luxury beachwear brand with an overt African aesthetic. The fact that his stockists now range from Brown’s in London to United Arrows in Tokyo supports his cause.