Last week, London Fashion Week celebrated some of the hottest designers and style icons from around the world. At the same time, social media was buzzing with appreciation and excitement for the new box office sensation, Black Panther.
Black Panther has been celebrated for its diversity — for bringing black voices and stories to the forefront of Hollywood. But the film’s done more that shake up Hollywood and highlight the intense demand for more films about, by, and starring black people: it’s also showcased and celebrated the rich culture of fashion that originates from across the African continent.
Fashion is one way individuals can illustrate and highlight their identity, and it helps individuals make powerful statements – whether personal, political, cultural, or economic. Fashion can speak volumes about who we are, how we feel, and what we represent — and this has been evident in the response from black communities to Black Panther. Across social media, fans having been sharing and showcasing stunning African fashion, both from the film and their own lives, and many fans have turned up to screenings or viewings proudly wearing African-inspired outfits. Black Panther has allowed black people to not only promote their power, strength, and talent, but also their culture and visual identity — and that’s wonderful.
“Thanks to Black Panther, there are now young people who can see heroes on-screen that not only look like them, but also wear the costumes and outfits that they’ve grown up with, or that represent their families, communities, and histories.”
Of course, fashion is about more than individual identity. For generations, fashion has acted as a form of not only cultural expression, by also resistance. Indeed, Diana Vreeland once said that you can the approaching revolution in clothes — alluding to the fact that from the early independence movements right through to the American Civil Rights movement, African nations and peoples have used their dress to oppose colonial domination and reclaim their identity.
That the global media has embraced African fashion recently, particularly in the wake of Black Panther, no doubt signifies a long-overdue appreciation of the beauty of African fashion — but more importantly it shows the power that representation in the media has in empowering communities globally. Thanks to Black Panther, there are now young people who can see heroes on-screen that not only look like them, but also wear the costumes and outfits that they’ve grown up with, or that represent their families, communities, and histories. This gives young people a sense of cultural pride that many have never had the opportunity to experience or celebrate.
By showcasing the beauty of African fashion — in Black Panther and beyond — we are creating a world in which people can confidently and boldly wear outfits from and inspired by their cultures. And that, surely, is a beautiful thing.
Tina Antwi contributions on @nopebook