The V&A opens its doors to the UK's largest ever exhibition of African fashion - Upsmag - Magazine News

The V&A opens its doors to the UK’s largest ever exhibition of African fashion

Africa Fashion at the V&A

Peter Kelleher

Having worked in the industry for decades as an artist and designer, and spent years studying the links between race, culture and fashion at Goldsmiths as a PhD, there was no one better suited to the job of putting together this exhibition. ‘Of course, there are always some people that just want to wear fabulous clothes. But there are also people that understand the power of dress, the power of fashion and styling the body as a way of speaking and pushing against society’s hierarchies of value that are sometimes rooted in race or in gender,’ Checinska says of her findings, ‘ For me, that spoke volumes about moments like, moving away from the African continent for example, the Windrush men from the Caribbean arriving in their fabulous suits looking like gentlemen and demanding respecting through the way that they were dressed. That is an example of the power of fashion speak.’

Like many places in the world, Africa is home to a plethora of stylistic groups, dressing as a reaction to cultural and contextual movements of the time. ‘Look at some of the subcultural groups in Johannesburg, the Izikhothane or the sapeurs, that use fashion as a way of speaking, and that’s bound up with self respect,’ says Checinska, ‘I think it’s really important to remember that no culture is pure, all cultures are a mixture of things and all cultures move, and it sets a flux. I think that was one of the things that we wanted people to realize within Africa Fashion, that African fashions are not static, they’ve changed over time. And the continent is home to decades, if not centuries, of fashion and textile history.’

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