Couture runways and the concrete walkways of the streets are evidence that the use of African prints is expanding in fashion, but with modern European styling and a fresh sensibility.
Traditionally, African prints have been used for formal ethnic costumes with volumes of lengthy layers. Or they have made it to the mainstream in the form of political dashikis. For the younger demographic, these older styles haven’t won many fans. Indeed, the trendier set wants to show their shape, flaunt a little skin, add a few inches to their stature, and find pieces that sample from the latest runway ensembles.
But as natural hair care and makeup become more popular — and with an American president of African descent — fashion’s interest in Africa has exploded. In delicious synchronicity with the Africa issue of L’UOMO Vogue, mainstream designers like Donna Karan and lesser known designers such as TeKay, Modahnik and Stella Jean have integrated African prints to create wearable, everyday hauteness.
For stylish women everywhere, particularly those interested in expressing pride in the Motherland, the transition to fall marks the perfect time to incorporate trendy African print pieces into your looks.
Today’s professionals and women on the go want to rock asymmetrical cuts, peplums, cropped pants, menswear-inspired suiting, and high heels that provide the requisite four additional inches. Designers are providing all of this and more in African-printed fabrics that mix well with your existing wardrobe.
Enter stage left: body hugging skirts, motorcycle jackets, colorful jumpsuits, and fabrics doused with vibrant hues inspired by Africa. So how do you incorporate these daring items?
Armed with some know-how, this clothing works best as a big statement or through bold center pieces — so you can rock your LBD (or little black dress) and then grab a fabulous African-print cropped jacket; or accessorize your Saturday afternoon “walk in the park “outfit with a printed clutch.
Plus, various African prints like Kitenge, Batik, or Khanga marry wonderfully with certain graphic designs. Don’t be afraid to mix a printed pencil skirt with a striped, tailored top. Enjoy experimenting!
We recommend you check out Modahnik to get started. This label, started by Chicago resident, Kahindo Mateene, originally of the Democratic Republic of Congo, offers modern, feminine, sophisticated designs. Her pieces are available on Sapellé, a UK-based online retailer of products from or inspired by Africa. It’s a site worthy of a bookmark if any of the images resonate with you.
Kahindo’s pieces take runway trends like peplums, high-low hemlines, and ruching, intermixing them with rich textiles. They are perfect against the backdrop of summer’s white clothing or as an accent to autumn’s earthy browns, oranges, deep greens, and golden yellows.
You want feminine, sophisticated and work-appropriate? Try Modahnik’s deep v-neck sleeveless top with a double peplum, paired with skinny cropped pants.
You want flirty and fun? Opt for Tina Lobondi’s full African print skirt with an easy white tee and heels.
If you love prints and shoes, head to mainstream footwear brand Aldo to grab the African print Stremlow wedge. It will elongate your silhouette and leave you ready for any occasion where you want to dazzle.
If you’re not convinced of the staying power of African prints, start small with a pretty clutch from Ayikai Couture, pairing it with many types of outfits, spreading the love.
African textiles and prints have been around for years, but it is only recently that these prints have appeared in forms that every woman — from busy moms to fashionistas — can enjoy.
Simply put, if you didn’t know, now you know. With the knowledge that African prints are the height of chic, will you try them on this season?