By Ojemen Cosmas Eromosele.
Recently, I read an article on the NEW AGE sound, its loose ends and the way forward:
”Music has evolved and our New Age needs to not just evolve with it but they need to design the musical future they desire for
They can only do that if they forgo the conventional”; a quote from the writer (Edwin okolo). Edwin’s statement resonated deeply , to the extent that I was convinced to attempt a rejoinder from a fashion perspective.
THENEWAGE, a word coined by millennials, delineated as a movement majorly by autodidact artists headlining an artistic revolution but more importantly, challenging the status quo of mediocrity in the creative scene and the fashion industry.
The industry has experienced unprecedented growth in recent times even going beyond home turf to fashion capitals like Milan, UK and New York;
Recently, African designers have bagged editorial features in international magazines like Vogue, signalling its global recognition and acceptance which nurtures and stimulates growth in the burgeoning industry.
The scene also witnessed a wave of emerging new desingers creating facets on how the fashion narrative can be told. Harnessing social media, a major marketing influencer, they carve cult followership and widespread relevance.
Mawxivive, my personal favorite from the ‘NEW AGE’ engages the fashion narrative in a fascinating, aggressive and defiant approach with sartorial finessing in every look made. Still, it feels like a continuous iteration of the African fashion Anthem.
Here is what I think.
It is primal that African fashion brands should engage in a dialogue, not just any that comes to mind but a relevant dialogue, a constructive dialogue, highlighting conversations impactful in the society. Addressing relevant erroneous precepts innate in our culture is one way to begin a two way conversation between your brand and potential consumers.
Fashion is a form of resistance, it plays a role in resistance against bribery and corruption (which are still predominant in most African countries) and mental health issues like depression, which is still stigmatized in many Nigerian homes. How can the fashion industry address such issues?
In using tools such as social media, its popularity and narratives to perpetuate cultural bubbles, spark a coversation and reflect social impacts, the new age must be cautious as not to undermine the importance of being physically present in aggressive activism.
The new age consumer responds to transparent business practices. Revealing information about business practices helps engage this consumers in a new way; releasing a breakdown of cost for merchandised sold gives the consumer an insight on the brand and what they are buying into (an experience), building an intimate relationship, unveiling a dialogue and more honest brand experience. We need to reflect a level of authenticity by offering products in line with the company’s history and culture so as not to come off as spurious.
In demonstrating brand authenticity we should recognize consumer’s individuality, create a personalized experience and achieve an objective of unique diversity across a range of identities.
In growing the fashion industry towards competing on a global scale, the NEWAGE should realize that fundamental units of the supply chain need to be reanalyzed and properly configured to suit the future we see for ourselves. We should stage talks and workshops addressing the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of the supply chain at hand, highlighting strategies on how we can ensure a seamless supply chain. These workshops shouldn’t be held behind closed doors; key influencers in the supply chain should be duly informed and in attendance taking notes. We should be receptive of eccentric minds gracing the industry with the intention to diversify the scope of the African fashion industry thereby inducing a gateway for more fashion related acts. This is already in play as I stumbled on a narrative by a conceptual stylist from Nigeria; Dasidy, capturing gender conflict using fashion and photography as his medium, Dasidy believes everything and anything can be questioned.
When African fashion becomes singularly mainstream, the world and its tentacles will attempt to appropriate not only our culture but our artistic property; that’s if this hasn’t occurred.
An African fashion brand Tongoro founded by Sarah Diouf a Senegalese designer was completely ripped off by YSL, appropriating a perfect replica of Tongoro’s signature accessory (the MBURU bag) in their F/W 17 collection. Simply put, If they were able to appropriate our culture and have nothing happen, why not just steal the designs, afterall, ‘who cares.’
To curb this notion and send their heels running, we need structures in place rigorously enforcing the copyright act to ensure the protection of intellectual property by designers across Africa. This will also help protect designers against the ever growing knockoff industry which claims $461 billion worth of fashion costs.
It is in my opinion that the NEW AGE should have little or no regard for the bourgeoisie of fashion. I believe this addresses a downplay of content being put out by designers who seek solely to make gains, neglecting artistic representation and dialogue, designing majorly for the elite community and whatever suits their needs.
Fashion is not for a small bourgeoisie community. The newage should reflect a culture brought forth by the emergence of the Internet, one of equality filled with minds not trapped by identity, form or state. Minds that care about a sustainable environment and keeps in touch with the world in real time with accessible tools and an ever growing catalogue of information.