Travel through the continent: An African Fashion Feast with ADJOAA
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Travel through the continent: An African Fashion Feast with ADJOAA

The Grand Exhibition


After a successful display of African Fashion and Textile from 2 July 2022 to 16 April 2023, the V&A museum announced plans to celebrate the diverse talent and creatives of the African continent; to showcase of contemporary African fashion creativity and impact with activities such as film, photography and runway shows. 
The landmark exhibition seeks to unravel the role of the digital world in accelerating the industry expansion and will celebrate innovation from more than 20 African  countries in the continent. Headline designers who works and designs are featured as part of this monumental exhibition include iconic mid-twentieth century African designers like Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah and Alphadi and contemporary African designers like Imane Ayissi, Thebe Magugu, Tongoro and Sindiso Khumalo.
The exhibition has eight main focal sections: African Cultural Renaissance, The Politics and Poetics of Cloth, Capturing Change, The Mixology, Artisanal, Afrotopia, Sartorialists and Adornment. 
For anyone wishing to see a cultural exhibition with pan-Africanism at its heart and an elevation of the stories of African fashion as shown by African creatives, the year-long travelling V&A African Fashion exhibition is something not to miss. As told by the V&A museum, it is a
“commitment to grow the museum's permanent collection of work by African and African Diaspora designers, working collaboratively to tell new layered stories about the richness and diversity of African creativity, cultures, and histories, using fashion as a catalyst”

ADJOAA - A hidden Gem and Catalyst for African Fashion  

Welcome to Adjoaa, your go-to-place online marketplace for exploring the vibrant world of African fashion. We’re excited to take you on our latest fashion journey through the African exhibition, a spectacular showcase that has travelled across the globe, from V&A London, all the way through Brooklyn Museum, to Portland Art Museum in Oregon, and finally landed the Southern hemisphere—National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) at Melbourne, Australia, a city known for it’s electrifying creative scene, cultural diversity and inclusivity. We have our own personal connection as our founder, Pinaman Owusu-Banahene has lived and worked in Melbourne as well. Interestingly, she was building ADJOAA during the pandemic between Sydney and Melbourne before returning back to London after the borders opened. 
(National Gallery of Victoria/Quay West Melbourne)

The selection process for exhibiting designers and makers 

This fabulous adventure of Africa Fashion Exhibition shares the richness of African culture and history through the lens of fashion. The exhibition's designers were chosen by museum curators, external experts, and a team of young individuals from the African diaspora, ensuring a diverse and inclusive representation. To express the grand narrative of contemporary African fashion, they blend various media like music, video, photography, illustration, and stunning fashion pieces which were created from the 20th century to the present day.


(Angola- Day of Solidarity poster 1969/V&A Museum)


Fashion designer Artis, founder of the Moroccan design house Maison ArtC, shares a personal insight into the essence of African fashion: “Africa Fashion means the past, the future, and the present at the same time. The joy of life and the joy of colour is completely different and very particular to the continent. It’s a language of heritage, it’s a language of DNA, it’s a language of memories.” (Riedel, 2022).


The context 


The exhibition looks back from the late 1950s to 1994, focusing on the cultural renaissance as one of the main themes driven by social and political reordering across the continent. 


It explores the potency of cloth and its role in shaping national identity, exemplified by strategic political acts such as Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian prime minister, wearing kente cloth (fugu, the Northern Ghana variation of the woven fabric) to announce his country’s independence from British rule in 1957.


(Kwame Nkrumah in kente 1957/researchgate)


(Kente Cloth/ MoMA)


Beyond the political sphere, the exhibition shines a spotlight on artists like Sanlé Sory of Burkina Faso, who is a photographer who documented the cultural shift of the 1960s. His works reflect the fashion trends of the era, offering a personal glimpse into the past. 


(Sanlé Sory, Je Vais Décoller 1977/V&A Museum)


As the main feature, african fashion designers are the main star of the exhibition. Start with the 20th century african clothing designers who helped bring contemporary African fashion to global stage, like Folashade “Shade” Thomas-Fahm, who was often regarded as Nigeria’s first modern designer. She was a former nurse in 1950s London, her creation of stylish reinterpretation of traditional fabrics and designs, such as the iconic raspberry red dress and hat, are a testament to her creativity and influence.


(A flyer for Shade’s Boutique/ V&A Museum)


The exhibition at the end highlighted the extraordinary and innovative African fashion designers with their inspiring fashion works like the first black African designer who has showcased his designs on the Paris haute couture runway— Imane Ayissi. Nkwo Onwuka who is the founder and designer of the sustainable brand Nkwo, Bubu Ogisi who is the founder and designer of IAMISIGO, Adeju Thompson who is the founder and designer of Aṣọ Lànkí, Kí ató Ki ènìyàn, Laduma Ngxokolo who is the designer of MaXhosa Africa, Sarah Diouf who is the designer of Tongoro, and Lisa Folawiyo who is the designer of Lisa Folowiyo…


(Mbeuk Idourrou collection, Imane Ayissi A/W2019/Imane Ayissi)


(DAKALA CLOTH ensemble, 'Who Knew' collection, S/S 2019/ Nkwo Onwuka)


('Chasing Evil' collection, IAMISIGO, A/W2020/ IAMISIGO)


(Aso Lànkí, Kí Ató Ki Ènìyàn ('We greet dress before we greet its wearer') collection, 2021/ Lagos Space Programme)


(MaXhosa Africa SS2021 collection, Apropriyeyshin Dress/ MaXhosa Africa)


(Jama Jumpsuit, Tongoro by Sarah Diouf/ Tongoro)


(‘Irin’dress, Lisa Folawiyo SS2021/ Lisa Folawiyo)


Adjoaa’s Selection

At Adjoaa, to celebrate the final destination of the grand exhibition, we are dedicated to introducing you to the talents of African designers and the richness of African heritage. Our platform is a one-stop destination for exploring the vibrant world of African craftsmanship. Inspired by the exhibition’s themes, we have curated a selection of products that embody these ideas.

The Politics and Poetics of Cloth

As above, kente is one of the textiles that reflects symbolic and political significance. Each piece of kente tells a story, with its unique patterns and colours representing specific meanings and messages, making it a timeless embodiment of African fashion.

(Ewe Kente Cloth 1940-60/ V&A Museum)


Kente cloth is not just fabric, it is a powerful symbol of unity, pride, and heritage. Our selections of kente garments own their narrative and tell their story to the one who appreciates them.


 Adjoaa's Selection: NYNY Ryke Prêt à Couture Naomi Long Quilted Coat in KenteNYNY Ryke Prêt à Couture Leona Pink Kente Long Dress, BKCo Afua Multicolour Kente Dashiki DressNYNY Ryke Prêt à Couture Kardascian-off-Shoulder Jacket in KenteNYNY Ryke Prêt à Couture Rihanna Mini Dress in Kentelig, Margaux Wong Shield Italic Bracelet, Margaux Wong Shield Earrings, Marte Egele Orange Handwoven bag, Jiamini Clutch bag, Jiamini Basket bagBôhten Sunglasses, Maliko High Sole Sandals, Maliko Oreva Sandals with wooden heel


The Vanguard

Another theme that introduces us to the craftsmanship and heritage which African Fashion deeply fertilised is the Indigo dye technique. It is one of the standout themes of the exhibition that the technique is innovative and iconic as one of the hallmarks of African fashion. 


(Kofi Ansah Indigo Couture 1997/V&A)


At Adjoaa, we have a special pick for you —— featuring dyed clothing, showcasing the beauty and craftsmanship of this traditional method. From indigo dye fabrics to tie dye clothing, our selections celebrate the artistry and heritage of African dyeing techniques.


 Adjoaa's Indigo Selection: Cute-Saint Tent DressEki Kéré Knotted Kaftan, Aga Culture Floral Maxi Dress, Cute-Saint Sleeveless Tent Dress, Djiguiyaso Cooperative Indigo Tie Dye Pillow Case, Djiguiyaso Cooperative Indigo Table Runner, Aketekete Basket Bag, Aga Culture Patch Teddy Bear, Rhita Sebti Knotted Mule, Cute-Saint Black and White Aso-Oke Slide



Adjoaa's Colourful Dye Selection: Eki Kéré Tie Dye Shirt and Skirt with a high slitSisè Adire Layered Pleated SkirtAbiola Olusola Tie-Dye Seri Shirt, Abiola Olusola Hand-Dyed Floral Print Skirt Suit, Pepper Row Nata Silk-Cotton Maxi Shirt Dress, Margaux Wong Leaf Choker, Maliko High Sole SandalsEki Kéré Raffia Tote bag


Cutting Edge

This is the last theme we would love to share with you. Awa Meite, who is the Malian textile and fashion designer says:

Creativity and fashion allow us to write our own narratives. They are spaces for people who have a vision for the continent and who want to show its strength and its immense humanity, its beauty, and its material and non-material resources (2021).

Unfolding the heritage in the continent, seeking the secret of creativity and fashion there, we have witness numerous cutting edge fashion designers emerging as leaders in the global fashion industry. These designers are not only preserving traditional techniques but are also pushing the boundaries of contemporary fashion, creating innovative and trendsetting designs that capture the world’s attention.

We bring this cutting-edge essence into your everyday life at Adjoaa. Our selection features designs that seamlessly blend traditional African craftsmanship with modern aesthetics. Whether you’re dressing for work, a casual outing, or a special event, Adjoaa’s selections provide the perfect touch of sophistication and cultural pride.


 Adjoaa's Selection: Jiamini Necklace in modern design, Jiamini Pendo Neck-Piece, House of DOT Half Moon Handbag, Pepper Row Igho Sculpted Midi Dress with Fringes,  Pepper Row 3D Crop Blouse Skirt, Tribe of Elzar Camara Exaggerated Top with MIni Skirt, Tribe of Elzar Dion White Dress with Orange Crop Jacket, Ohiri Outlines Earcuff, Ohiri Stool Bag Black





London, June 24 2024 

AuthorYurui Cai, is the social media, content, and editorial intern at Adjoaa, specialising in fashion forecasting and insights. She authored this blog and coordinated the fashion styling and merchandising features.

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