You may have seen or read an article or two about super model Naomi Campbell's call for the creation of Vogue Africa, as a representation for the growing luxury market industry in Africa.
During the Arise Fashion Week earlier this year in Lagos, Nigeria the super model reignited the popular petition for the creation of Vogue Africa. In an interview with Reuters, Naomi states that, "there should be a Vogue Africa. We just had Vogue Arabia - it is the next progression. It has to be."
This is a topic that has been stern and longstanding. There are a lot of critics who claim that Africa doesn't have an adequate luxury market and infrastructure to maintain this market. Firstly, I would like to put to rest that argument. Africans have always boats out a great deal of local talent. According to the 2015 Bloomberg report, Africa's luxury retail sales represents the second fastest growth rate globally. "Rising 5.6% a year, Africa's luxury retail sales may reach $5.2 billion in 2019." Today, luxury market targets mainly Morocco and South Africa accounting for 86% of Africa's direct - operated luxury stores. In addition, luxury market in Africa is not only in the fashion industry. Luxury goods spending on private jets are also booming especially in Nigeria. According to the bloomberg report, "Knight Frank estimates that by 2024 Nigeria's ultra-high - net - worth individuals will reach 399, up 90%. In a sign of booming high-end wealth, the private jet route from Lagos to London was the eighth-fastest growing in 2013, according to netjets.
Despite Naomi’s calls for a Vogue Africa, many argue that it is not necessary neither will it positively impact Africa's local design industries. Many people have been vocal on social media that Africa doesn't need international recognition to validate African fashion. Nigerian-born fashion designer Ikire Jones tweeted, “We gotta stop asking folks to let us into their parties when we can throw better ones.” In addition, British-Nigerian designer, Tokyo James, also questioned the restrictive nature of one Vogue representing an entire continent. “Why does it have to be Vogue Africa?” said Tokyo James in a statement to Teen Vogue. “Have you ever heard of Vogue Europe or Vogue Asia? We are a diverse continent, we all have different identities and different cultures. Each African country should be given its own opportunity to stamp its identity on the Vogue brand.”
Moreover, another argument by Uduak Oduok in her article with lady brille mag, argued that Vogue Africa makes no sense for Africa since there are more African fashion and lifestyle focused brands who have emerged the past couple of years and maintained authority. These magazines offer both Western and African fashion consumers more options, magazines such as: The New African Woman and its French edition Femme Africaine say they "offer intelligent, meaningful and inspirational features and news in areas that embrace and celebrate the African woman's diverse accomplishments and aspirations." Senegal's thriving magazine scene counts the high-quality Actu'elle magazine as one of its best. It is produced in Paris. " They take this long perilous journey in search of Eldorado, but it is disenchantment for most," the article says. Most of these magazines in fact have shifted focus to feature social issues that are affecting the continent. For example, May's edition of Actu'elle profiled women's groups working to inspire other women in urban and rural areas. An article on abortion says 50% of illegal abortions are carried out by women who have been raped. It calls for harsher sentences for those found guilty of raping minors. Couture Magazine on the other hand, is the topmost magazine that touches every aspect of women’s lifestyle and fashion. It displays the beauty, elegance, fashion, and styles of the day to day life. Olive Gachara is the brain behind couture Africa magazine and also the editor in chief. Established in 2009, the New African magazine continues to empower, celebrate and inspire all African women at large. The magazine shows colorful fashion and lifestyle which are dedicated to the women in Africa. Glam Africa is also among the top leading magazines that keeps you updated with what is new in the fashion world. It also brings you all the entertainment and gives news on the fashion events.
There is also the issue of African customers buying Vogue Africa, "despite an African renaissance, before they do their own. It is the reality and psyche of Africans and sadly is what it is. Ultimately, and this is no slippery slope, African publishing businesses in the continent will be forced out of business. With infrastructure issues, especially power supply, can African publishers truly compete with Vogue who most likely will produce Vogue Africa outside the continent and ship into the continent?" argued Uduak Oduok.
In addition, there is also the question of will African models be consistently featured? This has already been an issue in South Africa for example where major magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, and GQ to name a few, are notorious for using predominantly white models. Supermodel Oluchi complained about it back in 2008. Also, the designers themselves are not convinced African designers will be featured consistently. As there are some outstanding African luxury fashion brands such as; MAKI OH, from Nigeria, Created by Lagosian Amaka Osakwe, MAKI OH has amassed a loyal following and is even in the closet of the former FLOTUS herself, Michelle Obama. Her pieces display expert skill in traditional Yoruban adiré dyeing techniques. In fact, her teardrop adiré dress was recently seen on Amandla Stenberg in Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade.’ Osakwe is an intellectual sensualist, intertwining her designs with culture, literary reference, existential conversation, societal misconceptions and luxe fabrications. For example, her SS16 collection was an exploration of purpose vs futility through French philosophy, Yoruba legend, Spanish cinema and Greek mythology.
ADELE DEJAK from Kenya, Founded by Nigerian-born Adele Dejak, is a luxury accessories, lifestyle and jewelry brand sources materials from all over Africa. Her designs are assembled in her workshop in Kiambu, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Also, MINKU from Nigeria as well is already being hailed as the Hermès of Africa. Minku was started by Nigerian fashion designer and entrepreneur Kunmi Otitoju. Otitoju earned her degrees from Howard University and Virginia Tech. She then had a brief residence at Goldman Sachs before diving into her entrepreneurial side. She decided to launch Minku and produce luxury bags, wallets and accessories for men and women. Working with Spanish leathers, Minku blends these designs with Aso-oke fabric, a hand-loomed cloth woven by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The results are worldly cosmopolitan goods that are both contemporary and timeless. All Minku products are hand made at a studio in Barcelona, Spain and sold at high end shops in Nigeria. TAIBO BACAR from Mozambique, its founder, Taibo Bacar is the son of a seamstress who grew up around fabrics and design sketches. He originally studied Information Technology but eventually found his way to the Instituto Marangoni in Spain for courses in pattern cutting and design. At that time there was no fashion industry training available in Mozambique. Today, Taibo Bacar has emerged as an authority in luxury fashion known internationally.
ZAAF from Ethiopia, ZAAF is a line of premium luxury leather goods and accessories handcrafted by artisans in Ethiopia. Founded by Abai Schulze, who also serves as Creative Director, the names means tree in Amharic. This idea tethers to how ZAAF is rooted in its rich Ethiopian heritage while utilizing the resources and skill sets of its people as it “branches wide to embrace the whole world.” The SS’16 collection is broad range of men’s and women’s accessories: handbags, weekend and travel pieces, scarves and even leather jackets. Inspired by the diversity of peoples in the capital city, it embraces the cultural and artistic mashup of Addis Ababa. South African actress, singer and TV presenter Nandi Madida made her New York Fashion Week debut in February 2018. The Colour by Nandi Madida woman is a powerful African goddess and the electric beauty looks at the show served as testament of it.
Lastly, there is also the argument about marketing and promotions. The BET, MTV, America’s Next Top Model (ANTM), American Idol franchise and numerous Western multinationals are present in Africa especially in South Africa. These companies market Western products, with the same format, to Africans in Africa. In fact, contractual agreements with Africans who purchase these franchises make clear that they are not to cross market or promote the African version in the Western market. Marketing and promotions is limited to the continent. For instance, if a model won Africa’s Next Top Model she will not be and should not be on the USA red carpets for ANTM because there would be a conflict and competition with the winner of ANTM.
I personally do not object the creation of Vogue Africa neither do I recommend it. If major issues like the above mentioned and others that may arise as a result of its creation are evaluated thoroughly and addressed then perhaps we must be open minded and the possibilities that can come from it. Any projects that will create and foster synergetic, symbiotic relationships, collaborations and the progress of Africa should be thoughtfully taken into consideration. "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little," Franklin D. Roosevelt.