There is a deep sense of empowerment that comes with being proud of who you are. As an African, another word for this is Afrocentrism- and no, it is not centered on wearing an afro! Afrocentrism is embracing your African heritage and recognizing the importance of your rich and unique culture.
What we wear gives us the opportunity to express this empowerment. In addition, the confidence and attitude behind how we wear it will complete the outfit. This confidence is the final touch, and it comes from understanding and loving your heritage.
As a designer, I’m constantly reflecting on the following: Is the way I dress a true reflection of what I think about myself and what I know about myself? And how does what I wear make me feel about myself? Perhaps as you read on, you too can consider this as food for thought while you reflect on yourself.
Is African wear outdated?
Well, it really depends on how you wear it! A friend of mine once made me laugh when she confessed that the reason she can’t stand African attire is because her mum used to make her put on old fashioned “mummy-style” African wear when she was younger, and all the kids used to make fun of her! Apparently, this memory has scared her even through her womanhood.
Ladies, the fact remains, if you wear old-fashioned styles with old-fashioned prints, then no doubt you will look outdated.
Nowadays it is all about exploring a variety of beautiful colours, and prints combined with a contemporary look. So when the opportunity arises, stand proud in your African outfits, handbags, jewelry or even shoes.
Afrocentric fashion has become increasingly popular and mainstream with limitless concepts and designs. So much that large western retail stores and textile companies such as Vlisco and Aldo, H&M derive their inspiration from vibrant African colours and patterns! I’m also very proud of our fellow African designers both within and in the Diaspora because they are doing a great job in staying true to their heritage through their bold, confident and stylish creations. Furthermore, they continue to promote the beautiful and vibrant continent of Africa by bringing awareness to the rest of the world.
Is it possible wear Afrocentric attire in the workplace?
I have noticed that many people maintain the attitude that Afrocentric wear is not corporate and never will be. However, with a little taste, consideration of your body size and shape you may be able to pull it off! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that one should go to work in a full blown bubu outfit or a complete trouser/ skirt African print suite. Simply consider your context and what type of working environment you are in and you will be surprised by how great you’ll look in corporate/modern African wear.
A few Afrocentric Tips
Afrocentric fashion is not limited and exists for all sorts of occasions and contexts.
Take for example office wear; a tailor made suite can give you a stunning corporate look with moderate hints of African print in the jacket alone.
On the other hand, African elements can be incorporated through fashion accessories alone, such as earrings. Again, the context is important; if you work in a bank, keep it small and discreet. If you work in an environment that allows you to be expressive you can accessorize larger, however avoid the temptation to go over the top.
If you are going out for dinner or a social event, make a bold statement and accessorize a plain, yet classy outfit with a sassy African print clutch bag.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us not just remember how far we have come as women, but how far we have come as African women. When you think Afrocentric, think about the empowered, confident, and proud African woman that you are in all aspects of your life. Furthermore, let your Afrocentrism speak through your attire, if you are proud to be an African woman, express it in what you wear.
Efua Hagan is the founder and CEO of Iola Designs LTD, which specializes in trendy African handbags and interior décor.