This past month, I had the pleasure of being a blogger affiliate for the 3rd Annual African Fashion Week Houston! Being a blogger that creates content for both travel and style, I was extremely flattered that the African Fashion Week Houston (AFWH) Committee selected me to be a part of their amazing fashion showcase and runway show. Prior to attending, I honestly did not know very much about native African clothing. I knew African fashion was colorful, beautiful, and incorporated a lot of print, but I was delighted to learn more about how meaningful fashion is to African culture.
During the fashion showcase, I had the pleasure of interviewing so many local fashion designers and businesses from the Houston area about African fashion. Some common attributes to their brands are: cultural pride, vibrant colors and prints, and the intimate relationship between clothing and the person's embodiment of the wardrobe. In detail, what I have learned:
1. African or "tribal" prints were first created from a Dutch wax dying method. The method creates a pattern by dying the fabric twice. Many of the prints are one-of-a-kind and can not be mass manufactured.
2. A popular fabric used in African native clothing is Ankara. Ankara is made of 100% cotton and incorporates colorful and vibrant prints. The print may symbolize a tribe, emotion, feeling, or motif.
3. Some prints may include an Adinkra symbol. Adinkra symbols can popularly be found as a decorative print in clothing, but has historically been linked to religious meaning and cultural customs.
4. Head ties are a popular garment that is worn is many different tribes. Head ties in some areas may represent age, religion, and/or tribe, while some wear it for the purpose of protecting the hair. Head ties, depending on the style, can either be worn every day or during ceremonial events.
5. Zulu beads are popularly made for jewelry in South Africa. The women of the tribe create the jewelry, but both men and women wear it. The bead work commonly identifies the relationship/marital status of a person, but also represents a meaning based on the arrangement and choice of color.
It's quite extraordinary to witness such pride in the African American community in Houston and how welcoming they are to those who are interested in learning more about their heritage. Being educated about African fashion made me form a deeper respect and appreciation of the culture and history. Because of what I have learned, I am recreating three looks from the AFWH Runway to extend my appreciation of African fashion clothing and it's modern day trends. Although my recreated looks are not made or designed from African fashion designers, I wanted to present ways anyone can incorporate color and prints inspired by the beauty of African fashion. Let's begin:
1. Ditotto's Runway Collection
Ditotto was one of the runway collections that really caught my eye. I adored how the designer paired a lot of printed, bold skirts with solid, neutral tops. Based on the first photo, I was inspired by the yellow, pleated skirt and sheer black top. I loved how this look was effortlessly chic, modern, and elegant. For my recreated look, I chose a skirt that incorporated the same yellow hue from the designer's skirt. Because I didn't have a skirt with a similar print, I chose a floral skirt that was a colorful style. With both outfits, the vibrant prints are what make the skirt the focal point of the outfit. For my top, I wore a peplum black top that flowed over the skirt, creating a ruffled layer. Although my top doesn't have a sheer neck and sleeve lining, it still achieved that classic, modern look. I finished off my outfit with strappy wedges that is perfect for everyday style.
2. 3reesc's Runway Collection
This was one of my favorite collections! I absolutely adored the designers vision of extravagant ruffles, asymmetrical lining, and funky purses for a bold look. I really wanted to incorporate a style that achieved those similar qualities. One of the outfits I loved from the collection was a yellow pencil skirt and a tiered, ruffled button down top. I began my recreated look by opting for a button down yellow skirt. Although it's not a pencil skirt, I feel like it has a similar simple, classic design. My favorite part of the outfit is the ruffled top. The subtle yellow accents on the top make the outfit cohesive with the skirt, but it boldly has multiple patterns of print, such as zebra, leopard, and purple/pink swirls. The ruffled sleeve also flows down the front of the blouse while the fit of the blouse is cinched at the sides. I finished off the look with black wedged booties and a contrasting printed purse from Kenneth Cole.
3. Leap of Style's Runway Collection
For my last look, I chose this beautiful outfit piece from Leap of Style. The designer's collection was filled with beautiful midi skirts, summer colors, zigzag/tile prints, and ruffles. With the particular outfit I chose to recreate, I thought to myself, "I would totally wear this to a corporate office job!" The designer's collection had pieces that achieved the balance of style and comfort. For my look, I chose a solid top that contrasted to my printed pants. I liked the puffy, high-top sleeves that make the outfit elevated- similarly to the ruffled top. I think it really distinguishes the outfit from being dressy versus dressing casual. For my pants, I chose a print that gave a similar, striped/zigzag design that was comparable to the collection. Although it's not as colorful, I opted for a pair of pants that incorporated neutral colors for my readers who may not want to wear as much color. For my shoes, I chose gray wedges that are super comfortable, but are perfect for business!
I hope you enjoyed my three recreated looks from AFWH! It's amazing how much I have learned from my experience attending the fashion events. I hope that this inspires you to learn more about African fashion and to spread more awareness of African culture as well. Because of this event, I was chosen to be a 2017 Style Ambassador for Tribalot Style Magazine! I am so grateful for this opportunity and can't wait to share more events with Tribalot. Please comment below your thoughts and tag me on Instagram if you want to share or recreate any of the runway looks! Until next time- Ressa