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Africa: Policy and Infrastructure

African Fashion
Arrangement of outfits

Due to the absence of an institutionalised fashion system, Africa was labelled as a place with fixed and traditional dresses for a long time.

However, this does not mean that fashion was nonexistent on the continent. Rovine [1] uses the term “Indigenous fashion” to describe the shifting of styles that is not reflective of seasonal change and does not benefit from marketing, promotion and production, and other processes in fashion design. In Contrast to Western fashion that is characterised by a system of change, pushing towards constant innovation.

Indigenous African Fashion favours slow change, honours the heritage, and tries to preserve traditional craftsmanship. The culture, heritage, and histories behind African fashion are what make it unique and valuable. For example, the craftsmanship and know-how behind African fabrics such as woven cloth is linked to historical traditions and societal changes expressed in colours and prints that adorn the fabric (Onyewuenyi, 2011) [2].

Values and practices of the Western fashion system promoting continued growth and constant change did not benefit African Fashion. Until today, Africa cannot yet compete with other markets when it comes to manufacturing and mass-production. However, the world is going more toward ethical, sustainable, and authentic goods; and global Luxury is returning to its traditional meaning of authenticity and search for unique goods with a high level of craftsmanship (Jennings, 2011) [3]. All these shifting trends in production and consumption represent opportunities for Africa and African fashion designers.

In 2019, coinciding with the launch of Paris Fashion Week, UNESCO hosted a round table discussion, Made in Africa: the next global manufacturing hub? [4], at its Headquarters in Paris on 23 September. The discussion focused on the potential of Africa’s fashion industry, with leading experts from the Continent’s clothing and fashion sector. Acknowledging the talent and potential talks turned to the policies and infrastructures required to make it flourish and compete on the global market, stressing the industry’s central role in supporting cultural identity, innovation and creativity. With the dramatic shift to online “onlife” living in 2020 and an increased demand for more sustainably produced products and brands, Africa is on the luxury fashion map and demand is there.


  1. Rovine, V.-L., 2015. African Fashion, Global Style: Histories, Innovations, and Ideas You Can Wear.. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

  1. Onyewuenyi, I., 2011. Fashion Africa : Forging A Distinct Identity, s.l.: Pop Africana

  1. Jennings, H., 2011. New African Fashion. London: Prestel.
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Africa to the World: Analysing the Global Appeal for African Luxury Fashion

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