Not Oprah’s Book Club: New African Fashion

My knowledge of fashion, to be honest, is limited. Despite getting the “Best Dressed” senior superlative at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado–I think because I wore these weird Molly Ringwald circa Pretty in Pink kind of outfits on occasion–I haven’t spent a lot of my time following fashion. I watch Project Runway. I love vintage finds. Color is not my enemy.

And yet, when confronted with a book like Prestel’s New African Fashion, I have to admit that my mind was blown. In Helen Jennings breathtaking book, a whole new generation of African designers get their due. She writes, “Africa is fashion’s new frontier. Having been sidelined by mainstream fashion for over half a century as little more than a source of aesthetic inspiration, the continent’s home-grown industry is now showing the world how African fashion is really done.”

From Duro Olowu’s stunning prints–all assembled in a boisterous clash of fresh personality–to Anisa Mpungwe’s stark, poetic, dreamlike pieces, there is just so much to love and be truly inspired by in this collection.

Jennings, addressing the complex history that African fashion, like the continent itself, has with appropriation, colonization, aesthetics, and tradition, writes, “Contrary to the accepted view of African traditions as monolithic and unchanging, the evolution of dress practice and sartorial acumen confirms fashion’s role as a potent visual expression of a continent in flux.”

This book is the most beautiful flux I’ve seen in a long time. Molly Ringwald’s got nothing on Jennings and the new generation she’s curated and celebrated in this text.

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