When news broke that Solange Knowles would be gracing the Motherland’s shores for an exclusive Elle Magazine cover shoot, women and men, grown and old went wild! Here was fashion’s new ‘It-Girl’ bringing her fabness to our African shores.
As I went through the spread which had Solo rocking local South African designers – namely Anisa Mpungwe‘s Loin Cloth & Ashes with Anisa having been flown down to Cape Town for the shoot – I was thrilled! “These are exciting times for African fashion” I thought to myself.
Nearly a year has gone by since that issue and I find myself and many others truly embracing African fashion and style – I’m glad to see us being proud of us. That was until the ‘economist’ in me started to think. You see, it was not us Africans who had made African fashion and natural hair popular. We owe it to the likes of Solange, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, Brandy etc who were responsible for the reincarnation of box braids, head wraps, afros and Afro-chic clothing.
Basic economics will tell you that if you produce something in excess, exporting your surplus to other countries makes good economical sense. Right? So why is it that we as Africans are only proud to rock local designs, styles and our God-given hair once it gets the US stamp of approval? Without that, would we have ever embraced our own as much as we have now?
I am one of the many who have been influenced by Western culture. The truth of the matter is, the so-called West is just really good at exporting (original and borrowed) ideas, packaging them so irresistibly. Hence we find ourselves as Africans, importing back our African culture like we don’t know that our people have been rocking the dhuku and zambia for decades.
What a pity. I wish we had the guts to embrace and value what it is we have instead of waiting for the approval of others. I do hope that as Africans we take this as an opportunity and grab onto this new-found African craze – embracing and running with it à la Forrest Gump till we can run no more. After all, it is our own. Let’s give credit where it’s due to those who have made it popular, but more importantly, let’s get back to exporting our own ideas, talent and goods.