Why Is Africa Not A Trend Setter?

By: Tshego ‘Red’ Mosiane

For the past 4 decades, global fashion trends have notoriously been lead by the fashion savvy of the 5 major fashion capitals – New York City, London, Milan, Paris and Tokyo. Recently, with the rise of Seoul Fashion Week, South Korea’s capital has joined the ranks of not only the fashion forward but the trend setting. This has inadvertently lead to more Africans in fashion asking themselves one question: Why not us? 

source: www.graziasrbija.rs

Considering how in the past 2 to 3 years alone we have seen a rise in African-inspired fashion trends across the globe – in multiple subcultures – many assumed that that meant Africa (or at least one city) was set to be join the ranks of the cutting-edge. But alas, instead what continues to be the case is that the rest of the world takes inspiration from across the continent but Africans in Africa are not the ones benefiting from the popularization of fashions inspired by our cultural garb. 

A main reason for this is that, as a continent, we do not utilize the power of the internet to expose the rest of the world to our own original fashion content. Instead we consume and perpetuate the trends set by others, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In this hyper-connected world, we are bound to be influenced by each other and creating content based off what we’re exposed to. The issue is that too many of us are doing that in place of covering our own industries through our own points of view.

One can not deny that in today’s digital era the main catalyst behind any trend transcending boarders is coverage in online publications and popularity on social media sites, starting in their own country & continent. As of March of 2017, according to research conducted by the Miniwatts Marketing Group, Africa as a whole only makes up 9.4% of the world’s active internet users. We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Digital in 2017 Global Overview report also reveals that Africa recorded the lowest levels of social media penetration on the planet (a mere 14% in 2016). As much as these figures show a promising increase from previous reports, these still aren’t large enough numbers to influence the world to follow us first.

source: www.ThaboMakhetha.com

To be fair, these figures due to socio-economic and political issues that the continent is still grappling with which limit how many people can have consistent access to the internet (if at all) like overpriced internet data, natural disasters and economic instability. But a majority of the Africans with access to the internet do not use it to or create online platforms to share our fashion content.

Even the most popular websites and online publications in African fashion media do not cover African fashion past the superficial or already Western-approved. For the most part, we do not break our own stories, spotlight as many of our designers as we could and should be or set our own fashion narratives. Yet as soon as an American, European, Asian, etc. sees a gap in the market and takes the opportunity, there are crocodile tears in the form of Facebook essays and Twitter threads.

The simple truth is this: the more we share, the more the world sees and thus the more we could begin to get closer to lead global fashion trends. So, get to sharing and supporting the existing fashion publications doing exactly what most are failing to do.