Certainly not breaking news, western urban culture has been grabbing “inspiration” from African culture, art, philosophy and fashion for as long as we can remember. Inevitably this rapidly moved from being random interpretations of Africa’s influence on the world and has lead to the commercialisation and arguably the exploitation of many cultures.
Often big design brands seem to fail at acknowledging the genuine influence behind their pieces. They seem to wait for fashion bloggers, consumers and industry influencers to spot any striking similarities in existing projects.
Vuitton takes the lead
Many high fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton are known for drawing inspiration or simply appropriating African culture in the process of creating some of their popular runway pieces.
As part of the brand’s 2013 men’s wear collection, Louis Vuitton created two-toned versions of the Basotho blanket-scarves.
Louboutin follows suit
Africa-inspired fashion has clearly proven to be a safe bet for big money spinning luxury brands. The year 2016 sees high-fashion shoe designer Christian Louboutin join the fray with a vibrant tote bag range called, Africaba. In collaboration with an organisation that houses vulnerable women and children called La Maison Rose the brand develops vibrant bags in Senegalese traditional prints. While the final product is assembled in Italy, the decorative money spinning prints are made by the women from the Dakar shelter.
Priced at $ 1000 per stylish accessory it isn’t clear how much the women and those who have inherited this craftsmanship truly benefit from sales. With 10% of the proceeds going to CSAO, an organisation supporting those living at La Maison Rose gain independence, it’s the people of Senegal who appear to adopt the role of sponsors.
Superblast plays it safe
Superblast joined efforts with Michelle Collis, trading original Basotho blankets on its online platform. This presented an opportunity for buyers to experience, albeit a very small part, of the southern African culture at a reasonable price.
While it seems as though many in the fashion industry are more concerned with profits over human dignity, there are pioneers dedicated to being positive social and cultural influences.