The UK’s largest celebration of fashion designers from the Motherland is now on display in the first ever Africa Fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
In what promises to be a visual and poignant exhibition, the creative art of more than 45 fashion designers from over 20 African countries will converge in this landmark display for visitors to the V&A.
African fashion and art have been a constant source of inspiration for the mainstream fashion industry, though largely unacknowledged. For the first time in its 170-year history, the V&A centres the influence, creativity, and global impact of African fashions through the years via the exhibition.
Perceptions of Africa, and by default, its fashion, are generally viewed through a limited lens, and it is hoped that this exhibition will begin to correct the view of Africa and fashion and celebrate the art for what it really is.
Thebe Magugu, womenswear designer and just one of contemporary African fashion creatives sharing their designs in the exhibition, captured this sentiment. He said: I feel like there’s so many facets of what we’ve been through as a continent, that people don’t understand.
“It’s so often that our stories are told by other people, and I feel like now more than ever African designers are taking charge of their own narrative and telling people authentic stories, not the imagined utopias.”
More than 250 objects, spread cross two floors of the V&A will be on display for visitors – from photographic portraits and catwalk footage, through to garments and textiles. True fashion pundits are in for a real treat as many of the garments on show will be from the personal archives of iconic mid-twentieth century African designers.
The mezzanine level of the exhibition focuses on the new generation of ground-breaking designers, collectives, stylists and fashion photographers working in Africa today.
Omoyemi Akerele, Founder and Director or Lagos Fashion Week reminds us that the fashion industry is made up of individual talents and creatives. She said: “African fashion is something that has existed forever, something that has been a part of us. It’s not just designers, there’s a whole ecosystem of models, make-up artists, photographers, illustrators – imagine bringing everybody’s work to life season in season out. Fashion that’s created by our people for our people and for the benefit of growing and developing our economy.”
“It’s so often that our stories are told by other people, and I feel like now more than ever African designers are taking charge of their own narrative…”
The exhibition is described by the V&A as being part of a wider public programme to “tell new layered stories about the richness and diversity of African creativity, cultures, and histories, using fashion as a catalyst”.
Dr Christine Checinska, Senior Curator African and African Diaspora: Textiles and Fashion, said: “The exhibition will present African fashions as a self-defining art form that reveals the richness and diversity of African histories and cultures.
“To showcase all fashions across such a vast region would be to attempt the impossible. Instead, Africa Fashion will celebrate the vitality and innovation of a selection of fashion creatives, exploring the work of the vanguard in the twentieth century and the creatives at the heart of this eclectic and cosmopolitan scene today.”
Visitors to the exhibition can also expect to take part in talks, learning events, music performances and lots of free to attend events.
The Africa Fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in Gallery 40, is open from 2 July 2022 until 16 April 2023.