The Fashion Capital of the World... in Africa?

Fashion Week in New York every season hosts nearly 300 brands that are showcasing their collections, all squeezed into one week. According to an article in Business Insider, Mayor de Blasio is expecting nearly 230,000 people to visit New York for the event, which would result in nearly $900 million of revenue for the city. According to New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), New York City is home to more than 900 fashion companies, employing more than 180,000 workers on salaries of $11 billion a year, and bringing tax revenues of $2 billion. 


New York City, Paris, London, and Milan are well-known as the fashion capitals of the world, and continue to build strong images for fashion, attracting more designers, brands, and other related businesses, constantly reinforcing their credibility as fashion destinations.

But will this continue to be the case? Can other cities grow their fashion and design industries to become the next New York City or Paris?

Atim Oton, a Nigeria-born and British-educated designer and entrepreneur, believes that the future of Africa is in fashion and design, and imagines African cities to be the fashion capitals of the world. In an article in The Huffington Post, she explains:

"I am a child of Africa and I grew up like my father with a vision of the African Grand Plan -- one that came with our independence of a continent of nations that would determine its future, determine its goals, opportunities and place in the world for its future generations. [...] And in the spirit of that grand plan, I look to change Africa's image and perception through fashion and design."

Atim advocates her vision by proposing the notion of Hybrid Modernity as a concept to adopt in fashion and design. According to her definition, Hybrid Modernity is "the juxtaposition of traditional African materials, craft and design techniques with Western modern conceptualization, materials, design and techniques. [...] Simply, it is a hybrid of culture that is a powerful push toward the future and key to this idea is the use of traditional methods of production in fashion." For example, Duro Olowu, a Nigerian-born and British-based fashion designer, demonstrates this hybridity by combining Western styles with African prints as shown in the photo below.

At Maki & Mpho, we are taking the concept of Hybrid Modernity one step further: We are not just combining "African" heritage with "Western" modernity; we are redefining and creating "modernity" in the African context. Hybridity is not just about mixing Africa and the "West:" We appreciate craftsmanship and cutting-edge innovative ideas from other parts of the world, too, particularly from Japan, in order to bring high quality products and luxurious experiences to our customers. 

Join us for the experience of African Modern Luxury.

The African View of Sustainable Life: Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a widespread African value, particularly in Southern Africa. Ubuntu combines the root -ntu "person, human being" with the ubu- prefix forming abstract nouns, so grammatically it parallels the English term humanity (Ref: Wikipedia). However, this philosophical term signifies more than just humanity, and is not easily translated to a direct Western counterpart.

There are several definitions of Ubuntu: Kevin Chaplin, a South African business executive, describes them in his paper, The Ubuntu Spirit in African Communities, published on the Council of Europe's website. In Zulu, "the word Ubuntu embodies a distinctive worldview of the human community and the identities, values, rights, and responsibilities of its members. It is about 'we' – not 'me.'" Ubuntu means, "I am what I am because of you;" it is about being a part of a community integrated with its surroundings. 

Ubuntu is also about living and growing together. As Nelson Mandela described in a story in an interview about how villagers used to provide water and food when a traveler stopped by and took a rest, Ubuntu is the humanity of supporting each other for the good of the whole community. In the context of the modern, globalized world, Ubuntu is an African take on sustainable living and development: We share resources and prosper together.

At Maki & Mpho, we embrace and celebrate this value with one of our signature designs in our launch collection, Sweet Grass.

Sweet Grass. © Maki & Mpho

Sweet Grass. © Maki & Mpho

The central theme of Sweet Grass is Ubuntu: The layers in each motif represent the generations of ancestors with their roots in ancient Kemet, honoring the early civilization and abundance of human life, and the repeated motifs that create the bird's-eye view of an African homestead reflect the lives of people supporting each other and co-existing within nature.

We are currently printing Sweet Grass and other designs on luxurious silk twill fabric for our launch collection of men's accessories. Leave your email address, and we will let you know when yours is ready!