Style Observer

Hello, Mama Africa! Yes?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

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In 2008 the late Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani “broke the Internet” and got tongues wagging by producing the fashion bible's first all-black issue. Despite her trailblazing, Milan has lagged behind in its embrace of Africa and her influences. However, this season, fashion's Sleeping Beauty could not resist the brush of Africa's lips.

First, famed Nigerian musician Wizkid made history at Milan Men's Fashion Week when he became the first African artist to walk for Dolce & Gabbana. He and Naomi Campbell closed out the 144-look show at the Spring/Summer 2019 runway presentation on June 16. Secondly, even 'ice queen' Donatella couldn't resist the call of the Motherland! She used the music of South African duo Faka to add some fire to Versace's Spring 2019 menswear show. Thirdly, Stella McCartney hosted a garden party to present her Spring/Summer '19 men's and women's collections. The event, just kitty corner from the home of Da Vinci's Last Supper, was attended by celebs from both sides of the pond including Grownish star Luka Sabbat. Two young black Brits — Cosmo Pyke and Nadia Rose (who happens to be Stormzy's cousin) — provided the music for the event.

In Paris, Ghanaian-American fashion designer Virgil Abloh's productivity is putting that of Tokyo businessmen to shame. Not only is he Louis Vuitton Men's artistic director (the first black person to be an AD in the brand's entire 164 years), but he's also still at the helm of his Milan-based label Off-White. Clearly not busy enough, he's deejaying events, collaborating with Ikea (so is Solange, by the way), and on Monday last, Abloh launched a radio show on Apple Music Beats 1. Televised Radio is recorded at the Louis Vuitton atelier and is described by Abloh as an “audio mood board”. The streaming show features discussions with notable guests about art, design, music and fashion; classic hits and new music.

On Thursday last, he presented his debut menswear collection for Louis Vuitton at the Paris Fashion Week menswear shows the day after showing his collection for Off-White. A word about Abloh's two jobs — his well-designed streetwear, architectural influences and slight irreverence proved to naysayers that he is definitely not spreading himself too thin. For now, he can do it all.

London, of course, would not be left out. Bianca Saunders's debut presentation at London Fashion Week Men's featured a cast of all-black models. The daughter of first-generation Brits, Saunders's aesthetic successfully interrogates outdated notions of black masculinity. Her collection showed the comprehensiveness of black male identity — one that exists outside of a colonialist purview. She's definitely one to watch.

And the world finally has a “Wikipedia of African fashion”. Launched on June 1, Industrie Africa is an online database of over 80 designers from 24 African nations. According to its website, it is the continent's “first digital showroom” and “definitive guide to industry talent and designer discovery”. Plus, Nigeria and Cameroon have been praised, by Vogue.com, for having some of the most fashionable football jerseys in the World Cup. Even fashion has World Cup Fever!

It's clear that regardless of the venue, event or mission, Africa always finds a way to sprinkle some seasoning in the world's melting pot.

There's reason to add Lagos, Nigeria to your fave retail destinations

SO Travel spots this week include Salento, Italy, Semester at Sea's MV World Odyssey and Maroon land in Scott's Hall, St Mary

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