The Defining Details of East African Fashion

The Defining Details of East African Fashion

In a World Full of Trends, I Want to Remain a Classic -- Iman”

Fashion reflects the culture of a people. It is a way of communicating  style, personality, and background. Prior to the industrial revolution, coveted style was exclusive only to royalty. As a result of globalization, even the farmer’s daughter in a remote village can have access to what’s on trend. 


In most cases, fashion is associated with glamour, though it can also represent confidence, self-empowerment, and boldness. Fashion encompasses makeup, accessories, hairstyles, etiquette, and lifestyle. 


Designers crave inspiration, which has led them to tap into African heritage in an attempt to create something original. Africa is an immensely expansive continent. Traditional African clothing is as diverse as its people. 


Like most cultures, African fashion was and continues to be greatly influenced by foreign cultures and trends. Those foreign influences are dependent upon that region’s proximity to other geographical regions, trade routes, as well as its former colonizers. 


Gomesi or busuuti”, a colorful long dress with a square neckline and puffed sleeves worn by Ugandan women, can be traced back to 1905 during the British era. The traditional male attire is called Kanzu - a result of the Arabic influence in the region. African Dutch Wax Fabric, AKA, “Kitenge or Chitenge”, a pattern printed clothing worn by African women to wrap around their chests, waists and to carry their babies, was reproduced by Dutch sailors in the 1800s after having witnessed the handcrafted batiks of West Africa. It was their attempt to mimic and resell the culture back to the people - it worked.


Traditional clothing has evolved into modernity and has made East Africa the future hub of apparel sourcing. Its beauty lies in the beading, cow horn details and unique perspective. Africa has a cornucopia of history-rich textiles that continues to expand beyond its borders.


Generalizing African fashion is futile. Each designer brings something different to the table. The future of East African fashion is limitless. It is defined dually by the beholder and its creator. You don’t have to be aware of its history or traditions to appreciate and rock it with pride and confidence.