Fashion (Not Quite) Out of Africa


Recently published was a fashion story called “Out of Africa,” about a supposed trend among big-name designers who are drawing inspiration from “African” fashion.

Besides the obvious, and usual, stereotyping of Africa as one monolithic place that doesn’t possess a myriad of fashion traditions from South Africa to Nigeria to Morocco, the references were just . . . off.

The pants in the photo above are wicked, but the description:
“The colonial world has also been mined for inspiration. For Ralph Lauren, the colonial looks fell somewhere between India and Africa, with low-crotch pants- those in between sarouel and jodhpur styles that are so a la mode this summer.”

The colonial world? Props to the writer for at least making decades of brutal colonization sound charming. In another description, the writer raves over the “tribal fabrics” of another designer. In another, she calls “African” style a “drumbeat.”

While it is always welcome to read about contemporary African culture, it seems harder and harder to not see those stories reduced to one generalization after another.

Read this brilliant critique of the article here.

And for any writer or person interested in Africa, this article about how NOT to write about Africa is priceless.

Photo via The New York Times

Nairobi Fashion Day


At the end of April, the non-profit group Festival for African Fashion and Arts held the Fashion for Peace show inside the Nairobi National Park in Kenya. The show featured burgeoning talent and stunning designs from Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania. Check out photos from the event in a New York Times slide show called “High Savannah Fashion” here.

Photo via The New York Times

Biking in Mexico City and the Dutch Bike


I’ve never been a big biker. Before I lived in Mexico City, the last memory I have of a bike is falling over into a bush after trying to ride my freshman-year college roommate’s bicycle. But the capital is becoming known as a center for cycling and all activities green thanks to its liberal-minded mayor. So, much to my surprise – and many others’ – I bought a bike my first months here and attempted to ride around.

And ride around I did! I stuck close to nearby, calmer neighborhoods and saved loads on cab fare and was really exercising – besides my old standby activity of walking – for the first time in years. Until, sadly, my bike was stolen one night. It was an older, rusty bike, too short for me, but I loved the handy thing, anyway. After it was taken, I was slightly bitter and didn’t want to get a new one, much less remember my days gliding around avoiding cars and overzealous policemen who really should be watching out for criminals, not women.

Until I saw the beauty pictured above, the Dutch bicycle. I read the article and saw the slideshow and almost went crazy with excitement. Stylish and functional? Designed for upright riding? Perfect for wearing nice clothes and no need for a helmet? Yes, yes and yes. I don’t actually mean I’ll buy this bike, but I think my grieving period has finally passed and it’s time to get a new one. Check it out here.

Photo via The New York Times

Andrew Dosunmu: Third World Glamour


Two of my favorite genres to write in are style and travel, and Andrew Dosunmu’s photography straddles both fields impressively. From India to Europe, Southeast Asia to Africa, his stunning portraits and editorials go right into the world’s biggest and most chaotic capitals and pluck out the edgiest, most interesting people and scenes.

andrew dosunmu1

I saw an exhibit of his a few years ago in New York, and the global conglomeration of his work is enthralling. Dosunmu is Nigerian, and began his career as a design assistant at the couture house of Yves Saint Laurent. Since then, he’s captured the glamour and regality in the Third World, grit and all. Check out more here.