The Africa Fashion exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which debuted this month (2 July–16 April 2023), is a historic milestone celebrating 45 designers from more than 20 African countries. The historic exhibition, which is to date the largest in the UK of African fashion, honors the influence of modern African fashion on the entire world. It is as dynamic and diverse as the continent itself, celebrating vibrancy and creativity.
The show includes more than 250 pieces, of which about 50 are selected from the museum's own collection, including 70 recent additions. Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah, and Alphadi, four renowned African designers from the middle of the 20th century, are among those with a large number of their garments on display. This happens to be the first time their work will be displayed in a London museum. The exhibition also honors important modern-day African fashion designers such as; Imane Ayissi, IAMISIGO, Moshions, Thebe Magugu, and Sindiso Khumalo.
In honor of these designers work, Africa Fashion provides a detailed backstory for each of these pieces and the stories behind them, as well as personal insights from the designers, editorial spreads, sketches, photos, video, and catwalk footage. The influence of African fashion is felt all over the world, from Amanda Gorman's appearance on the American Vogue cover wearing kente fabric to Michelle Obama's outings in Duro Olowu.
However, the book, Africa Fashion, complements the exhibition by examining how post-independence creativity by designers like Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah, and Nina Gessous led to a cultural revival throughout the continent. The African fashion industry is now being demonstrated by a younger generation, like Kenyan jeweler Ami Doshi Shah, Ghanaian weaver AAKS, and Nigerian fashion designer Lisa Folawiyo.
Across contemporary couture, ready-to-wear, made-to-order and adornment, the exhibition also seeks to offer a close-up look at the new generation of ground-breaking designers, collectives, stylists and fashion photographers working in Africa today. It explores how the digital world accelerated the expansion of the industry, irreversibly transforming global fashions as we know them.