The V&A museum showcases the ‘collective power’ of African fashion

Prepared by Tom Bouchier-Hayes, CNNLondon

There is a distinct buzz about the Africa Trend exhibition at London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum.

The function, which opens on July 2 and stretches across two flooring, is a intriguing combination of trend from the mid-20th Century to the existing day, explained to as a result of pictures, movie, magazines and mannequins.

It features the get the job done of 45 designers from additional than 20 nations around the world, and has much more than 250 objects on display, 70 of which are new acquisitions. Starting up with the interval when quite a few African nations ended up declaring independence, the exhibition examines the job manner performed in the continent’s cultural renaissance.

Much more than 50 mannequins have been dressed in exquisite outfits showcasing Africa’s imaginative spirit. It is colourful and fun, but there is a function.

“I feel for us manner is a kind of catalyst by way of which we can give individuals a glimpse into the myriad histories and cultures on the continent,” stated Christine Checinska, the direct curator. “That is also what we hope people today will consider away — just the sheer thrill and relish of the probable of African creativity.”

“You can find a real sense of collective energy, and a sense of pan-Africanism in spite of variation,” she added.

The exhibition functions the operate of some of the most vital names in the development of African trend, which includes Folashade “Shade” Thomas-Fahm, who is typically described as Nigeria’s initially modern-day designer.
A design by Folashade "Shade" Thomas-Fahm, from the 1970s.

A layout by Folashade “Shade” Thomas-Fahm, from the 1970s. Credit rating: Victoria and Albert Museum

Right after learning trend in London in the 1950s, Thomas-Fahm returned to Nigeria and grew to become recognised for utilizing regular textiles in her do the job. Her early forays into trend arrived at the exact time as independence movements sprung up across the continent.

“In the 50s and 60s there was a variety of confusion about our id,” she informed CNN very last yr. “All the things Western was staying praised and no one appeared to care about our individual indigenously developed materials. I just by no means felt that way.”

An archive of achievement

It is, on the other hand, the function of new and groundbreaking designers that really catches the eye. Amongst the numerous present-day designers featured at the exhibition is Nigerian Lisa Folawiyo, who developed her own label 17 a long time back. Speaking from Lagos, she claimed she was energized to have been asked to just take aspect.

“We’ve observed that globally what we do has been well received and it is really worn all in excess of the world and I do sense like it truly is about time that individuals comprehend that African fashion is further than (the continent). It is really just manner for whoever, anywhere.”

These pieces by Lisa Folawiyo, on display at the exhibition, feature a mix of contrasting patterns and colors.

These parts by Lisa Folawiyo, on show at the exhibition, aspect a blend of contrasting styles and shades. Credit: Chelsea Lee

Her function is showcased on the very first flooring of the exhibition, in close proximity to to pieces by multi-award winning South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi. “It really is no secret that the V&A Museum is one particular of the most revered and highly regarded museums in the whole entire world, and to be element of an exhibition that truly appears at African designers is great,” he said, from his Cape City studio.

He added that the exhibition will give a precious document of achievements in African craft and storytelling.

“It can be significant that African designers and artists are celebrated in an exhibition these kinds of as this, because very long time period, it’s a scenario of possessing archives wherever individuals are able to go again to and see, ‘this is what happened in the course of this time.'”

Africa Trend operates until eventually April 16, 2023.