Mudcloth Photo: Rachel Strohm // Burkina Faso

It’s no secret that we love African textiles around here. From South Africa’s denim-like shweshwe to Mali’s mudcloth to Congo’s Liputa tradition, these fabrics represent so much more than just style. They reflect traditions and stories that help us better understand the continent.

And in recent years, Hollywood has begun making use of these African textiles and traditional styles both in films and on the red carpet. The recent Black Panther premier had stars wearing Dashiki prints, Kanzu pants, and other African inspired outfits. Queen of Katwe also highlighted these awesome styles with a particular focus on the bright Ugandan Ankara fabrics.

Image: Marvel Entertainment

We’re thrilled these designs are being celebrated and given a spotlight. We hope people are inspired to take time to learn and appreciate the different fabrics and styles in Africa – and also that they recognize that “African fashion” is not just one style. Africa is a diverse continent, with many types of fashions and textiles. We hope to delve into that in a later post.

Another reason we’re thrilled that film costume designers are giving love to these styles is because many Americans have a low view of the fashion sensibilities in third world countries.

We’ve gotten too used to seeing the pictures that depict poorer Africans dressed in threadbare, dirty clothing.

As designer Mobolaji Dawodu points out, “Contrary to what I feel is shown in the mass media, presentation in Africa is a very important thing. Growing up in Africa, how you present yourself is a very important thing . . . It doesn’t matter if they were in the slums or not, whatever their socioeconomic situation was. Having a sense of pride with the way you dress. Having a sense of pride with the way you present yourself.”

Photo by John Nash // Ghana

So where can you buy some African styles for yourself? Here’s some of our favorites that support refugees here in the US and women’s sewing cooperatives in Africa:

Do you have a favorite fair trade retailer for African fabrics, fashions, and jewelry? We’d love to hear about it for an upcoming gift guide. Share your recommendations in the comment section below.

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