Revamping African Fashion for the World

It’s not a surprising feat that ideas, trends and ways of living get recycled constantly. Many times, we come across old school fashion trends that have somehow made their way to our clothing stores, fashion runways and social media pages. Walking the streets in recent times somewhat feels like an 80’s commercial, with the amount of afro hairstyles (weaves don’t count), wide leg pants and boot cut jeans we come across.

A number of fashion ideas are inspired by styles we grew up to know and love, others from the cool outfits we saw in old pictures of our older counterparts. These retro styles from the skater dresses, dungarees, fringe designs, polka dots, mom jeans and the like stay relevant because they are so glamorous and comfortable. Creatives make use of all phases of time in curating designs and as such the old finds a way into the new.

A vibrant example of this is the rebirth of the aso-oke, the traditional attire of the Yoruba people. In the past as well as in recent times, the aso-oke is worn for special occasions by both men and women. Woven mostly by men, the aso-oke was also the traditional and everyday attire for most, at a point in time in the past.

Ardently following tradition, Creative Director, Tunde Owolabi revamped the aso-oke, attaching it to high fashion trends and creating shoes and bags made with the beautiful fabric. Ethnik by T. O is a juxtaposition of the old and new, combining cultural fabrics with new designs. Owolabi maintains the traditional weaving method of making the aso-oke and employs weavers to ensure its durability.

Basically, he’s setting a trend with an old trendsetter as the aso-oke is said to be the fabric of Kings. Maintaining its regality, he creates designs that will appeal to young fashion lovers, bringing this age long design to the new generation. He is also showcasing these designs not only to Nigerians but to the world at large, sharing a part of his cultural heritage with the wider world. Some other designers have used the aso-oke to make outfits and create new designs.

Other than the use of new fabrics, there are many old designs and outfit mash ups that are still being worn today in many parts of the world. With Nigeria being Nigeria, it’s just a number of these old trends that we really notice, mostly worn by young Nigerians. This is due to the fact that certain “fashions” seem absurd to the average Nigerian, hence narrowing the scope of fashion freedom. Although it seems like a slow process, ideologies will be shifted and these stylish ideas would reach a wider embrace. Many fashion designers and creative directors in recent times infuse the old and new in their art and as seen from the fashion shows organised in Lagos alone, it’s safe to say the old is the new new.

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