The V&A opens its doors to the largest ever African fashion exhibition in the UK

African fashion at the V&A

Pierre Kelleher

Having worked in the industry for decades as an artist and designer, and spending years studying the connections between race, culture and fashion at Goldsmiths as a PhD student, there was no one better placed. to organize this exhibition. “Of course, there are always people who just want to wear fabulous clothes. But there are also people who understand the power of clothing, the power of fashion and body style as a way of speaking and to push back societal value hierarchies that are sometimes rooted in race or gender,” Checinska says of her findings, “For me, that said a lot about times like, moving away from the African continent for example , the Windrush men of the Caribbean arriving in their fabulous gentleman-like suits and demanding respect by the way they were dressed is an example of the power of fashion.

Like many places in the world, Africa is home to a plethora of stylistic groups, dressing in reaction to the cultural and contextual movements of the times. “Look at some of the sub-cultural groups in Johannesburg, the Izikhothane or the sappers, who use fashion as a way of speaking, and it’s related to self-respect,” Checinska says, “I think it’s really important to remembering that no culture is pure, all cultures are a mixture of things and all cultures move, and that creates a flow. I think that was one of the things that we wanted people to realize at the breast of Africa Fashion, that African fashions are not static, they have changed over time. And the continent is home to decades, if not centuries, of fashion and textile history.

James C. Tibbs