Creativity, sustainability and African textile stories – this is the slogan with which the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg presents its exhibition “Black Thread”. It deals with the African fashion scene, concentrating on West Africa’s ancient textile traditions as well as on two of the continent’s contemporary designers. Amah Ayivi and Imane Ayissi have co-created the exhibition and, with their Paris-based brands, they showcase creations that represent West Africa’s weavers, markets, tailors, colours, materials and cuts.
Born in Togo, Amah Ayivi founded the brand Marché Noir which is based on the interaction between different cultures, aiming at creating clothing that can be worn by people all over the world.
Whilst showing a modern look, fashion pieces from Marché Noir express an advanced knowledge about traditional West African patterns and weaving techniques. For designer Amah, it is important that people all over the globe learn about the wealth of textiles that West Africa can offer. Preserving the region’s cultural history and the traditional knowledge of local artisans by bringing both to life in the used fabrics is what Amah calls creating socially responsible fashion.
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For Imane Ayissi’s collections that are sold under his eponymous brand, the choice of material, manufacture and composition is of great importance too.
The designer from Cameroon mixes high-quality fabrics with cheaper and more uncomfortable materials like raffia or bark fabric. Emphasizing his West African roots, he also pays lots of attention to tradition, using materials like kente from Ghana or batik fabrics from Cameroon. Also in focus is the sustainability of the brand and having a low environmental impact which is ensured by using renewable materials, reducing waste and guaranteeing fair production conditions.
In general, the exhibition “Black Thread” demonstrates very well that African textiles are a lot more than random materials printed with patterns that many people regard as typically African and therefore it is definitely worth a visit. Additionally, it makes clear that African clothing pieces are all about vibrant colours. However, the challenge in creating an African inspired look is to combine them in the right way.
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This knowledge is also very important for the Islamic fashion scene which is very present in Africa. Especially Nigeria stands out as a destination for Muslim clothing. In creating an Islamic fashion style, Nigerian women get support from, for example Habeebat, which is the country’s first halal e-commerce platform that sells a wide range of Islamic fashion products like maxi skirts, hijabs and abayas.
Otherwise, people wanting to create a fashionable Islamic look have the possibility to orientate themselves on the collections of Nigeria’s high-end fashion brand House of Kaya or on the advice of editors who work for Muslima fashion and lifestyle magazine Hayati. The magazine, which is managed 100 percent by women, aims not only at informing about high fashion trends but also at supporting gender equality and at connecting women from the global Islamic community.
Black Thread Exhibition
Open until 29 August 2021
Museum of World Culture
Södra vägen 54, Göteborg
Written by Miriam Chisti