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Fashion in Africa

Photographers: Kim Ludbrook, Ahmed Jallanzo, Legnan Koula, Nic Bothma, and Daniel Irungu


This four-part feature package explores the dynamic range of influences and the creativity of fashion professionals in Africa.


Part 1 introduces four young Soweto hair stylists who are creating waves in the fashion scene in South Africa after starting their own underground fashion trend, combining clothes bought from second hand stores and cheaper clothes shops, with the aim of inspiring others to be fashion conscious. 2BA, Tumelo 'Zibstar' Zibi, Banzo and Mphoz are also trying to break gender stereotypes by combining women's dresses with men's jackets. Their objective is to create smart, stylish and unique clothes with as little money as possible, avoiding designer brand items.


Part 2 looks at the work of tailors in Liberia and Ivory Coast. Tailors are highly respected in Liberian society and are central to the export industry also attracting interest from outside the country for their designs. The Liberian fashion industry started booming and reached its peak in the early 1980, however it now faces challenges from imported Chinese goods. The unique style of Liberian design incorporates classic West African colors, shapes and textures with many inspirations drawn from contemporary clothing and traditional African designs. Roger Bango Koffi is a tailor based in Cocody, Abidjan, the commercial capital of the Ivory Coast in West Africa and has been working in the fashion trade for 15 years. He began his craft sewing in the impoverished center of the country in Bouake. His designs increased in popularity and he managed to generate enough money to move to Abidjan and found the label Korha in 2006.


Part 3 details the work of the brand 'Township'. Township is a word described in the dictionary as 'a suburb in South Africa of predominantly black occupation, officially designated for black occupation by the old apartheid legislation.' In 1997, 'Township' the brand was founded by Nicole-Marie Iresh a designer from France with a commitment to creating meaningful and sustainable economic opportunities for women in South Africa's township communities within the fashion industry. To create the Township range, a group of designers interpreted and translated recurring township colours, patterns, shapes and textures into distinctive and expressive print designs. The label's range includes fair trade cotton bags, scarves, hats, shoes and clothing all handcrafted by township women.


Part 4 explores the fashion industry in Kenya that has seen tremendous change over the years as more people continue to embrace Western and other cultures. Most fashion talents in Kenya are self-employed although over 80 percent are reportedly not certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and 60 percent are operating from their homes as unregistered entities. The fashion industry in Kenya has also been affected by the second-hand clothing trade, known locally as 'mitumba'. An example of this is the Gikomba market in Nairobi that is said to be the largest second-hand clothes market in East Africa with close to 65,000 traders. While 'mitumba' may have reduced the appeal for locally made clothes and fabrics, it has also opened new opportunities for businesses and new upcoming designers and stylists who use second-hand clothes as part of their creations. Second-hand clothes are easily available, affordable and provide inspiration from a wide range of styles, colors and fabrics, making them easier to sell quickly and in larger volumes.