As far as fashion goes we understand Africa’s trends to be inspired by pungent colours, geometric shapes and simplified silhouettes of natural forms. The once coined “dark continent” is often considered sluggish at picking up or pioneering innovative trends that inspire the world at large. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. While the world is currently experimenting with fashion’s androgyny obsession, Africa has the opportunity to improve an idea it has long perfected through traditional attire.
Androgyny Steps Forward
Androgynous fashion doesn’t merely avoid male and female stereotypes, it completely disregards their functions (considered unnecessary in retail) and liberates people from gender-normative culture altogether. The move promotes gender-fluidity and an open-mindedness that enables everyone to completely express themselves especially LGBT and non-binary persons. It also goes a long way in destroying the societal hierarchy created by gender roles.
Africa Ahead of the Pack
Popular African cross-cultural shirts and dresses have been worn by some of the world’s biggest celebrities. The angular and bulky design of the garments and the bright colours in the often busy geometric prints seem to effortlessly fit individuals of all body shapes regardless of gender. These versatile attributes of the various garments have also played a big role in securing a platform for African fashion in the global arena.
Local Designers Take it a Step Further
With the world becoming less preoccupied with gender and sex identification local designers are starting to take a less traditional approach to androgynous fashion. They do this by bringing modern European elements into their clothing through fabric choices and contemporary fashion designs.
Deena Van De Merwe is one of the creatives who made a bold statement at the 2017 Men’s Fashion Week held in Cape Town with an androgynous collection that certainly had heads turning. She pushes the envelope challenging men to consider wearing a flowing satin dress or onesie. With the many colourful and versatile collections available local designers could very well manage to successfully ease South Africans into fully embracing non-binary culture.
Globally, urban fashion is enjoying this induction period into androgynous fashion, and rightfully so. However, for South Africans and in fact Africans at large, we’re merely improving on perfection.