A new book telling the story of African print includes an essay by Nataal’s editorial director

African Print Fashion Now! A Story Of Taste, Globalization And Style is a newly published coffee table book accompanying an exhibition of the same name at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, California. Co-curated by Suzanne Gott, Kristyne S. Loughran, Betsy D. Quick, and Leslie W. Rabine, the glossy tome and show “demonstrate the vital role that African print has played in the expression of beauty, fashion and heritage, while creating transcultural connections across Africa and into the larger world.”

The exhibition reveals the long history of African print cloth, both regionally and internationally, and the political, economic, social and style conversations that have been woven with it up to the present day. Themes explored include the power of consumer agency, African print’s ability to express both individuality and pan Africanism identities, and its influence on global trends.


The show brings tailor-made designs together with catwalk creations by the likes of Ituen Basi, Gilles Touré, Titi Ademola, Dent de Man, Adama Paris, Ikiré Jones and Afua Dabanka. It also presents black and white studio photography from Francis K. Honny, Jacques Touselle, Omar Ly and Mory Bamba alongside contemporary images and paintings by Omar Victor Diop, Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Hassan Hajjaj, Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga. Having recently concluded at Fowler, the exhibition travels to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee early next year and then onto The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Meanwhile the weighty book offers great insights on everything from classic Dutch Wax fabrics, the Vlisco archive, China-produced African prints and the sticky subject of African ownership of wax print to Ankara fashions in Nigeria, Chitenge fabrics in Zambia, nsaasaawa patchwork in Ghana, the eternal popularity of the dashiki and the evolution of hip hop style in Senegal.

I’ve also contributed a chapter to the book, which comes in the final section looking at new directions in African print. Entitled Designing Futures, it looks at the role of virtual communities, fashion weeks and new media in pushing African fashion forward. It includes wise contributions from blogger Chayet Chiénin (Nothing But The Wax), style collective I See A Different You, ecommerce entrepreneurs Honey Ogundeyi (Fash Pa) and Kiran Yoliswa (Styled By Africa) and fashion week founders Lucilla Booyzen (South African Fashion Week) and Gloria Wavamunno (Kampala Fashion Week). It also features the work of contemporary designers including Maki Oh, Loza Maléombho, Studio One Eighty Nine, Orange Culture, Laurenceairline and Lisa Folawiyo. I make the point that now that African fashion industry has experienced startling growth, the next generation of talents are finding fresh ways to reach a broad audience:

“In a fashion-paced fashion world that always craves new stimulus, African print designers are now using multiple channels and new technologies to be heard. While the heritage, skills and inspirations they are communicating through their work are often centuries old, in the 21st century these are being translated, promoted and consumed in thoroughly modern ways that will continue to propel the designers’ work and textiles – and the continent itself – into the future.”

African Print Fashion Now! A Story Of Taste, Globalization And Style is published by the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Available to buy from the museum shop +1 310 206 7004

Book images Josh Bristow

Published on 27/08/2017