Knowing African Tribal Fashion and Its Influence in Mainstream Fashion

African tribal fashion is continuously emerging and its influence in mainstream fashion is undeniable. More and more designers are choosing tribal prints to represent their brands in fashion shows. They either come in the form of shirts, skirts, and even sandals. They’re even featured in famous retail stores such as Charlotte Russe and Forever 21. 

This tribal clothing is becoming a favorite of many, and African people feel proud whenever they see it worn because it represents their heritage. Some people appreciate it but don’t know its origins. If you’re a fan of this type of fashion, then it would be good to know more about it. Let’s take a closer look into its history and how it’s influencing the main steam fashion today. 

The history of African clothing

African people are known to wear traditional clothing. Their tribes have their respective national dresses that they wear during special occasions and ceremonies. The type of garment used for their clothing represents their status in the community. 

Africa has a warm climate, which is why people didn’t put on clothing much at all. Men just wore bark cloths passing between their legs while women just wrapped them around their breasts or waists. They also use skins and furs for their clothing. 

In the 15th century, trading occurred, and African locals were able to acquire items, which they used as decorations for their clothes and shoes, such as buttons, shells, and beads. 

The tribal clothing

In the early 20th century, African people were more accustomed to wearing tribal clothing. They use printed fabrics as wraparounds for their bodies. They wear accessories, such as belts, caps, bags, and headdresses made of seashells, beads, furs, animal tails, etc. They wear such costumes for tribal purposes. Their garments symbolize ethnic group, tribal allegiance, status, or special ritual.  

Modern clothing

Today, when you visit Africa, you’ll notice their locals are wearing clothes full of color. They still wear traditional dresses from their ancestors, but they use it for everyday wear now, apart from special occasions. Their dresses are either single items or full outfits. 

They have kaftans for women (a robe plus a hat), kanzus or long kaftans for men, agbada for men (loose-fitting, long gown), Ankara for men and women (wrapped around the waist), and Madiba and dashiki shirts (unisex pull-over shirts). 

Introduction to mainstream fashion

Designers today are exploring everywhere to find inspiration. And Africa is just one of the many places where they see something unique, a tradition that can be transformed into a form of clothing. The usual tribal clothing converted into something new but still maintaining its representation.

Africa has so many countries and they all have different traditional clothes. Designers today don’t usually mention where (African country) they get their inspiration from, which is why these clothes are often categorized as tribal clothes, whenever they reach popular stores such as Forever 21. But still, these exotic prints are becoming more and more popular and gaining recognition. Some high-end designers that have featured tribal prints on their collections are Roberto Cavalli, Michael Kors, Gucci, Marchesa, and Versace.

Stella Jean, a Haitian-Italian designer, and whose designs were worn by celebrities like Beyoncé and Rhianna, has used African tribes as her inspiration for some of her collections. She has designed drapes and silhouettes that are tribal-themed. 

Donna Karan, an American fashion designer, interpreted the tribal fashion through her collection of beige and black-toned clothing, a more subtle way of representing it. 

Mara Hoffman, Unifi’s first-ever receiver of the “Leading the Change” award, is known for creating engaging designs. Her idea of tribal fashion is all about colors, an explosion of them, combined with excessive usage of fittings. 

Jenny Kee, an Australian fashion designer, started her career by selling ethnic clothing. She’s a fashion influencer known to push her boundaries. She has a collection of tribal designs full of color and accessories. 

Apart from internationally-acclaimed fashion designers, there are also prominent fashion bloggers who have a huge number of following, and they have influenced a few people about the beauty of African fashion. Some of them are Fatou N’Diaye, Gaëlle-Vanessa Prudencio, Folake Kuye Huntoon, Folasade Adeoso, and Luna and Vanessa of Project Tribe. Some of them have collaborated with African shops, sported outfits in tribal prints, and launched and promoted accessories and pieces of jewelry that are tribal-inspired. 

Keeping the trend alive

To keep the tribal clothing in limelight, some African designers are teaming up with prominent designers to create a collection of African fashion. it surely is a unique and trendy style today, which is why more and more stars and celebrities are craving for it. People in the fashion industry today are expanding their imagination and creativity to create a collection of tribal fashion that would surely make African people loved and proud.

Author: The Fashion and City

Hi!! I am Swarupa. A fun loving girl, Leo, trend follower, mad for fashion, desert lover and most important a crazy animal lover.