There are a growing number of African fashion cities emerging. Designers employ transnational networks, as well as indigenous art practices, techniques and skills. The panel explores how fashion throws up issues of display, representation, materiality and identity within post-colonial contexts.
There are a growing number of fashion capitals in Africa reflecting the history of textiles, dress and style as forms of art. Despite this there is a lack of empirical studies of emergent African fashion worlds, and their social and historical contexts. Moreover, African fashion has been excluded from fashion theory perpetuating binaries between the west and non-western, which are only recently beginning to be questioned. African creatives and designers are seeking to position themselves on a global platform through networks, self-presentation and numerous fashion weeks. Today African fashion might be seen as agentive in terms its potential for re-imagining identities within post-colonial contexts and for self-representation. In addition, in recent years designers have become interested in reworking indigenous techniques and designs, throwing up issues relating to art and authenticity, authorship and the entanglement of high end, commercial and artisanal practices. This panel explores African fashion, identity and representation and asks how designers are engaging in forms of self-representation. Designers may respond to the material qualities of fabrics, whilst drawing from traditional and historical ideas, as well as being informed by transnationality and mobilities. Fashion identities might also serve to subvert or renew ethnicities. Papers might explore the emergence of new communities of designers, the relationship between fashion and identity, or how ideas about 'heritage' and contemporary identities are co-constitutive offering potential for African museums (which are reflective of colonial categories of dress) to renew their presentations of fashion and dress.