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Visiting V&A's Africa Fashion Exhibition
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Visiting V&A's Africa Fashion Exhibition

We were so excited to visit V&A's incredible Africa Fashion exhibition recently. The whole team headed up to London to explore this truly fascinating collection. Spanning from iconic 20th century designers to contemporary creatives through photographs, textiles and more. "Africa Fashion explores the vibrancy and global impact of a fashion scene as dynamic and varied as the continent itself." It was brilliant to see so many familiar African textiles and designers displayed in such a considered and thoughtful way. The exhibition is focused on centring multiple and varied African voices through a diverse line-up of designers and creatives. A shining highlight for all of us was to see our very own shakers, fabric fans and baskets stocked in the V&A shop (more on this later!) We asked the team to each share their favourite parts of the day and here is what they had to say...

 

Dress by Alphadi, made of cloth and brass 

"We had a fabulous day in London with Bee & Nat- even if it was unbearably hot and sunny! The exhibit started with some beautiful vintage pieces, looking at different fabrics, prints and material types and how they have been used in each outfit. My favourite piece in this section was a dress by Alphadi, a Malian designer of nomadic ancestry. The dress, which was adorned with a brass breast plate, really caught my attention and was unlike anything else I saw at the exhibition. 

 

Pieces designed by Sarah Dioufs for her brand 'Tongoro'  

The exhibit then moved upstairs and shifted to focus on contemporary creatives. This was my favourite section - it showcased some amazing designers! We all loved it so much that we had to go through this bit twice! My favourite piece was definitely Sarah Dioufs brand Tongoro ‘Jama’ Jumpsuit, made in Senegal. What really attracted me was the big bold black and white print, and playful oversize shape. It is such a statement. absolutely gorgeous, and unforgettable. I really wish I could afford one of Tongoro's exceptional pieces, I think for now I'll have to whip out the sewing machine and see if I can create my own homage! (Whilst I save up for the real deal!)" - Nicola, Wholesale Manager 

 

Bee, Natalie & Nicola visiting the exhibition

 

"I really enjoyed visiting the V&A exhibition in London! It was great to visit London as I had never really been before and Nic & Bee made sure to show me all the sights - I definitely got my step count in that day! One of my favourite parts of the day was getting a chance to do some team building with Bee and Nic and getting to know them better, away from the office. 

 

This fabric reminded Natalie of our 'Dakar' and 'Senegal' prints

When it comes to the actual exhibition, I really enjoyed learning more about the history behind African fashion. There was lots of information to read about each piece we saw. I particularly liked seeing the Kente and Bògòlanfini (Malian mud cloth) fabrics that we work with on a daily basis being used in a fashion capacity." - Natalie, Store Manager 

 

 

"We were so excited to receive an email from the V&A informing us of an upcoming exhibition on African Fashion and how they were looking at some of our products to be included in their Exhibition shop. The V&A chose 3 of our products for their shop. Together we worked on 3 bespoke basket designs which were made by a group of weavers in the Machakos region of Kenya. They also chose our colourful musical shakers from Bolgatanga and our lovely fabric fans from Accra. These fans are traditionally made with a leather finish and a leather handle but we have redesigned them using a fabric finish and a handle made out of rolled verti vert grass making them completely unique and vegan.  The fabric, chosen by the V&A, is souced from a textile mill in Ghana.  We always feel it is important to work with materials that made in Africa. There are only a few mills left in Ghana and most of the fabric you buy in the markets is inferior quality, mass produced in China, so for us the fact that all of the components of the fans are produced in Ghana is very, very important.

 

Maxhosa Africa's latest collection 

 

Besides the excitement of stocking our products in the V&A, there was the excitement of finally getting to experience an exhibition highlighting the fashion of Africa. Having travelled this continent so many times, I love the fabrics and craft that goes into some of the traditional garments. African street fashion is incredibly creative, drawing with various cultural references from both Europe and Africa. My all-time favourite designer is Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa whose colourful knitwear is inspired by his Xhosa background. He reinterprets traditional Xhosa beadwork patterns and colours into modern, funky and very wearable knitwear. My wardrobe will be complete when I finally get my paws on one of his cardigans! When our shop was in London, on Columbia Road we sold his socks for a couple of years and he hand-delivered one of our orders! He is as lovely and engaging as his clothing and it was such a privilege to meet him and chat a little about our shared home of South Africa. The exhibition is a very concise and educational look at Fashion – for me it could have been much bigger but I am greedy!  It was very thoughtfully curated exhibition and a wonderful day out!" - Bee, Co-Founder

 

We absolutely loved visiting the Africa Fashion exhibition at V&A! The exhibition is running until 16th April 2023 and you can book your tickets here. Don't forget to look for out for our products in their shop. 

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