When contemplating Florentine fashion, Africa doesn’t come to mind automatically, but Pitti Uomo is an international fair of global talent and doesn’t discriminate. The African continent has played a somewhat silent part in fashion, but is finding its voice as a major player in menswear.
Primarily involved in manufacturing and specialist crafts for big brands for decades, there’s a culture shift for young designers from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, who are now enjoying their fashion moment. And it’s no surprise either.
Traditional African prints have fast worked their way into Western street style, the bright printed fabrics normally reserved for dashikis always present in any fashion week snaps. Likewise the Sapeurs of Brazzaville, the Congolese dandies who wear their Sunday best everyday who achieved global notoriety through web documentaries, a Guinness TV spot and Solange Knowles’ video clip for “Losing You.”
Yet in a time of sensitivity towards cultural appropriation, the enduring message of Generation Africa is its focus on ethical manufacturing and production. The show was supported by the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative with three African asylum seekers walking as models in the show.
Not only acting as a showcase for the designers involved to present their men’s collections, Generation Africa was an opportunity to convey the importance of the African voice as a major fashion influencer, and not just a contributor to the global chain-store machine.
South African duo Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen, the designers behind Adriaan Kuiters x Jody Paulsen showed a collection fresh from the Cape Town streets.
Reworked African prints in muted tones of petrol blue and pistachio dominated in shirting and outerwear, which were worn with shorts, three-quarter-length trousers and statement overalls—a nod to Cape Town’s beach culture.
The stand-out of the show, Ikiré Jones presented a strong collection that gave menswear a much-needed vitality injection. A melange of prints, including traditional Japanese art and African textiles, each piece was about strong cut and finessed tailoring.
Suits exclusively cuffed above the ankle gave a contemporary edge to the winter range, while the must-have shawl-collar coats and blouson jackets almost stole the show. But perhaps the most desirable and collectable pieces were the printed silk squares models wore across the body, each a revised version of a Renaissance painting with African aristocracy as the subjects.
Nigerian fashion designer, Gozi Ochonogor presented her latest from U.Mi-1 (pronounced “You me one”). Inspired by Nigerian culture it’s a cultural fusion—Ochonogor established her label in Japan and is now based out of the UK. Known for her simplistic style, each look explored reconstructed tailoring. Pinstripes had a lighter, less corporate feel while panelled construction and contrast-coloured sleeves gave the humble navy blue suit new life.
Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts
A South African collaborative team, Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts joined forces for Generation Africa. Mdingi, known for minimalist design and Coutts for artisanal fabrication nailed the perfect juncture of simplicity and texture. Basics in forest green, rust and brown received textural embellishment through handwoven pockets and scarves that were knitted, striped and fluffed in all the right places.
Click through the slideshow for highlights of Day 3 of Pitti Uomo