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How the V&A explores Africa’s global impact on the fashion scene


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By Cherelle Mukoko on 17th February 2023

The V&A is currently paying homage to the significant space Africa holds in the fashion industry. Running until April 2023, Africa fashion is a landmark exhibition celebrating the pure craftsmanship, innovative and undeniable global impact of African fashion.

Iconic African designers, such as Kofi Ansah and Alpahdi, have given the public the opportunity to explore never seen before designs amongst the array of garments and objects on display for the exhibition. I was absolutely blown away by the artistry that was on display, solidifying how much I will be supporting African designers moving forward. You have to visit to understand the magnitude of greatness when it comes to design. When asked what pieces evoked raw emotion, it was difficult to choose. Numerous parts of the exhibition evoked multitudes of sentiments which, to me, is the true aim of fashion. From extreme joy and pride to see such dimension, craft and skill, and at other times, sadness and disappointment to know that African designers aren't given the recognition and platform they deserve to be able to thrive as significantly as the designers we love today.

Chris Seydou was a designer that particularly stood out to me, the tailoring, prints, luxurious lurex and sophisticated silks were reminiscent of the late 70’s to early 90’s; classic & timeless pieces that take you on a journey through the years to present day. Although Seydou was my favourite designer, the piece that I was left thinking about for days after my visit was a couture fuchsia pink two piece by Imane Ayissi. I could picture myself in this piece on the red carpet, envisioning myself in a position of success... and even writing about it now, in this moment, is making me feel giddy & elated. A dress made of dreams.

Mbeuk Idourrou collection, Imane Ayissi, Autumn/Winter 2019, Paris, France. Photo: Fabrice Malard / Courtesy of Imane Ayissi
Mbeuk Idourrou collection, Imane Ayissi, Autumn/Winter 2019, Paris, France. Photo: Fabrice Malard / Courtesy of Imane Ayissi

This exhibition is the beginning of a broader commitment the V&A are making to promote and uplift African designers from the continent and its diaspora, and tell the rich stories of their history and culture. As you make your way through the exhibition, you will see an array of traditional and modern designs; designs that transport you deep into Africa. The prints and fabrics are exciting, colourful and fun, and visitors can capture beautiful clothing, as well as see photographic portraits from the mid-late 20th century, that capture the moods, beauty and memories of the African people. 

Self-portrait, Gouled Ahmed, Addis Foam, Ethiopia
Self-portrait, Gouled Ahmed, Addis Foam, Ethiopia

If you want to immerse yourself into African design, dance and even politics, this exhibition is a must visit. The exhibition explores how fashion, visual arts and music have formed a key part of the colourful African culture present within the Western hemisphere, which has clearly laid many foundations for the music and fashion industries today.

Dr Christine Checinska, Senior Curator African and African Diaspora: Textiles and Fashion, said: Our guiding principle for Africa Fashion is the foregrounding of individual African voices and perspectives. The exhibition presents African fashions as a self-defining art form that reveals 

V&A South Kensington

Africa Fashion Exhibition

Closes Sunday, 16 April 2023

Tickets cost £16, book them here.

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