African fashion, all in black

Reading Time: 3 minutes

African fashion is often expected to be very colouful, somewhat extravagant. This idea has certainly been spread by wax print. These ideas are some of the most common stereotypes about African fashion.

The creative director and fashion designer Lamula Anderson questions it.

african fashion
photo credits: C.K – Amanie Magazine

an African fashion designer who loves black

Lamula Anderson is a London-based fashion designer, born in Uganda.

She questions women body representations and goes against the popular clichés about African fashion and Black women style.

Her artwork is part of the exhibition Connecting Afro Futures at the Kunsgewerbemuseum, in Berlin – Germany until 1st December 2019. Lamula is presenting there “the Perfact Stereotype”.

African fashion and its stereotypes

How have you started to be interested in this topic?

“It has been a process. There was a first event that particularly caught my attention. I was a teenage and a relative gave me a very light green dress to wear for a celebration. She mentioned that it would be perfect for me, as I have dark skin. However, I wasn’t happy at all. I felt like a brightful light, which I didn’t want to be at all. Then, I asked myself why should I wear something that I am not comfortable with.

As an African fashion designer, I believe it is important to underline that wearing black is fine for Black people as well. You should first dress to please yourself . You don’t have to be in conflict with your personality or your taste. That’s the idea behind The Perfect Stereotype. “

Wearing black clothes doesn’t make me less African.

Lamula Anderson

Colouring. This “rule” of wearing colours comes out of it. On one hand, black clothes are elegant, chic or sophisticated for people with light skin. On the other hand, you’re supposed to have limited access to colours when your skin is dark (yes, black is also a colour!); otherwise, you’re not “beautiful”.

The body shape stereotype

Apart from their skin colour, women with African heritage are also facing body shaming.
Depending on the current body trend style they are either too skinny, too curvy and so on.
In the 90s, what is described as the African beauty standard was erased. Most of the time, there were long and thin silhouettes in the magazines and on catwalks.
Now, that celebs are promoting curves, women and especially Black women with curves are celebrated. Then those who don’t fit this new body trend have developed complexes.
They’re ready to risk their health to have a bigger bottom, more bust and so on.

Lamula Anderson addresses it as well. The designed clothes of the Connecting Afro Futures exhibition represent all body shapes.

How did you come with this idea?

“I first wanted to connect the collection to an object of the museum. When I first visited the place, there was a bustle dress of the 19th century.

A butsle is a padded undergarment used to add fullness, or support the drapery, at the back of women's dresses in the mid-to-late 19th century. Wikipedia

“This type of dress is coming after the crinoline. It was supposed to “protect” women ladies part. When you look at it closely, you realise that the volume goes behind. So it doesn’t play this protection role.
According to me, it somewhat connected to Saartjie Baartman’s body shape. I don’t have any historical fact about it, but she was indeed in Europe at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. So, we could consider how her body shape has also influenced the European fashion standards of that time. “

The last argument of Lamula leads to the question: How African fashion and African styles influence the rest of the world without being credited?