Over the years, the African fashion industry has presented innovations from creative designers that have explored the continent and managed to incorporate their experience into fashion. Oftentimes, the result of this combination is the emergence of collections with backstories of the African continent or peculiarities of a particular region on the continent. To ensure these innovations become globally recognized, platforms that showcase them are important, one of these many platforms is Woven Threads.
Now in its fourth year, Woven Threads is a brainchild of the organizers of the Lagos Fashion Week, a fashion platform that drives the Nigerian ultimately, the African fashion industry. In this fourth edition, organizers of the event noted that “fashion has always been an industry in motion, continuously evolving, adapting, and pushing boundaries”. Adopting a hybrid showcase of physical and digital expressions with a theme, Standing the Test of Time, Woven Threads IV was created to give prominence to African design principles and their intrinsic circularity. These attributes have been brought to life by designers notable for “innovating through textile, exploring various avenues for creativity on the continent and the role responsibilities they play in building their brands”.
From Kadiju, Emmy Kasbit to Nkwo, the event featured an exhibition of these designers trying to close the product life-cycle with an emphasis on traditional design processes, recycling, and sustainability. See the full list of designers here.
Let's take a look at four African clothing brands and the story behind their innovations that stood out:
1. NKWO - TRANSFORM
Winner, CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards for Emerging Designer, Nkwo is focused on textile waste reduction, traditional craft skills preservation, and environmental conservation. The transformation project of the brand reflects one of the four pillars on which the brand is built (transformation). A project that began as a training program in an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in Abuja where 10 people signed up, it has evolved into a scheme that provides money for the women, and at the same time provides them with the relevant skills on traditional African fashion processes. See project video here.
2. OLISA KENYA - WARM BODIES
Olisa Kenya is a knitwear brand that honours handcrafted artisan traditions and caters to women who care about individuality and originality. Tapping into the theme of the fourth edition of Woven Threads, Olisa Kenya highlights the intersections of heritage, art, and belonging and also their respective influence on the African fashion industry. Further emphasizing the need for innovative projects from Africa to embrace long-term goals, Olisa Kenya preaches this through a belief that paints craftsmanship and great design as two major currencies of sustainability.
3. HERU SHEZI: INDABA
One of the major topics of discussion in the African continent is the identity of Africans and the effects of colonialism. On this project, Heru Shezi, fashion designer and entrepreneur presents a collection inspired by a book written by Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa titled, “Indaba My Children”. With this collection, the fashion designer explores contemporary African identity, with distressed garments symbolizing the primal identity of Africans as well as the sophisticated depth of African culture and customs.
4. KATUSH - GWARDE
Made in Kenya, and loved around the world, Katush is a conscious and compassionate leisure lifestyle brand, made in Africa for the confident, reflective, self-aware global citizen who values quality, versatility, and sustainability. The innovation project by the brand is inspired by the reliability of African drums on energy.
@sundaenomad for Olisa Kenya