The Politics of Fabric and Fashion in Africa: 1960-Today | Summary and Q&A

November 1, 2022
Gresham College
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The Politics of Fabric and Fashion in Africa: 1960-Today


Fabric and fashion serve as means of self-expression and can challenge or reaffirm social positions, with African fashion showcasing diverse beliefs and values.

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Key Insights

  • πŸ˜‘ Fabric and fashion serve as vehicles for self-expression and can challenge or reaffirm social positions.
  • πŸ’’ African fashion during the era of independence played a pivotal role in redefining identities and showcasing cultural renaissance.
  • 🫷 African fashion creatives today continue to push boundaries and challenge societal norms with their innovation and conscious fashion practices.
  • πŸ’± Authenticity in fashion is a complex concept influenced by ever-changing cultural contexts.
  • πŸ‡¨πŸ‡« African fashion already has an impact on the mainstream fashion industry, with African designers gaining recognition and collaborations with international brands.
  • 😌 African fashion's future lies in its ability to sustainably produce and showcase diverse perspectives while maintaining a sense of cultural heritage.
  • πŸ‡¨πŸ‡« The exhibition "Africa Fashion" focuses on the diversity of African fashion and serves as a starting point for further exploration and celebration of African creativity.


  • Do clothes maketh the man, or woman for that matter? How might fabric and fashion allow us to speak about ourselves and the way that we want to be seen? The writer and cultural critic Sarat Maharaj once posed the question, "Textile art - who are you?" Going on to suggest that we might understand textiles under the "chameleon figure" of the "undec... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Can fabric and fashion be purely about self-expression without any political or cultural meaning?

While some fashion creatives may focus solely on creating beautiful clothes, African fashion often carries deeper meanings rooted in cultural and political contexts. However, not all African fashions have hidden political meanings, as some designers simply aim to make aesthetically pleasing garments.

Q: How did African fashion adapt to the post-colonial era?

With newfound independence, many African governments sought to reinvigorate textile production and supported the wearing of locally produced fabrics. The wearing of traditional fabrics became a political act, expressing national pride and challenging foreign dominance.

Q: How does African fashion influence the mainstream fashion industry?

African fashion already has a significant impact on the global fashion scene, with African designers showcasing their work on international platforms. African fashion's influence on high fashion and collaborations with global brands will likely continue to shape the industry.

Q: How does the exhibition address the impact of secondhand clothing on African fashion?

The exhibition acknowledges the issue of secondhand clothing flooding African markets. However, it also showcases African designers who use sustainable practices and conscious fashion, challenging the dominance of fast fashion and promoting local production.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Fabric and fashion have the power to speak and transform, encompassing various techniques, cultural meanings, and stories.

  • During the era of African independence, fabric and fashion became political acts that set the pace for cultural renaissance and redefined identities.

  • The exploration of fabric and fashion in the present showcases a diverse range of innovative African fashion creatives who continue to challenge societal norms.

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