Fashion Cities Africa: Exhibition of star designers promises "something really special"

By Ruby McGonigle | 05 April 2016

Brighton is about to host an inspirational flourish of fashion and style from four cities at the compass points of the African continent - Casablanca, Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg. Brighton Museum's Ruby McGonigle tells us more

A photo of a model wearing trendy clothes and holding a large bunch of flowers
VO Studio, Nairobi© Sarah Waiswa
“It’s been a crazy ten months of planning, research, brainstorming and preparation. Fashion Cities Africa has developed from a lightbulb moment into a spectacular reality.

From research trips halfway across the world to thinking about how to appeal to young people - and in-depth discussions about which shade of turquoise to use on the marketing material - the brains behind it have grafted tirelessly to ensure that this exhibition is something really special.

Witnessing such passion, drive and conscientiousness has been truly inspiring.

One aspect that’s been particularly fascinating to watch has been the process of designing the exhibition space.

With the help of Kenyan artist and designer Lulu Kitololo, the design team have pondered long and hard over everything from the colour of the gallery walls to the shape of the set work, the mannequins’ poses and the best way of wording the signage.

One gallery will have an interactive area decorated with vintage adire textiles that visitors will be invited to touch, a screen playing video footage from the curators’ research travels and chairs up-cycled by London-based furniture sprucer-upper Yinka Ilori, whose designs are inspired by the traditional Nigerian parables and African fabrics that surrounded him as a child.

We have been unbelievably lucky with people’s willingness to contribute to the exhibition, and have managed to get our hands on pieces from high and low-end fashion designers, film-makers, bloggers, stylists, textile dealers and jewellery designers from across the African continent, with no two contributors or exhibits remotely similar.

2ManySiblings

A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
2manysiblings (Velma Rossa and Papa Petit) © Sarah Waiswa
Velma Rossa and Papa Petit are a Nairobi-based brother-sister duo also known as 2ManySiblings, a social media phenomenon who have made their mark on the Kenyan fashion industry by using Tumblr, Instagram (where they have 10,000 followers), Facebook and Twitter to champion “bend-down culture”, or Mitumba, the Swahili term describing bundles of second-hand clothing.

Best-known for their fashion magazine-esque portraits shot in stylish spots across Nairobi, they’ve become famous for hosting Thrift Socials; large-scale events allowing their followers to come together, swap clothing, customise garments, have their photos snapped and enjoy good food and live music.

Having put together a handful of unique, second-hand looks for this exhibition, Velma and Papa are flying all the way from Kenya in June to join us at the gallery for their first ever UK Thrift Social.

The exhibition book is a 196-page beauty, made by author, commentator and journalist Hannah Pool, the exhibition curators and Helen Jennings, an African fashion guru and the founder of global media brand Nataal.

Helen and Hannah have been hugely influential in the development of the exhibition, using their wealth of knowledge and experience in fashion and media to introduce invaluable viewpoints, angles and ideas.

No stone has been left unturned in ensuring that Fashion Cities Africa will be a memorable experience as well as an impressive show. We can’t wait to open the doors.”

Fashion Johannesburg

A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Designs by Marianne Fassler© Simon Deiner / SDR Photo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Designs by Marianne Fassler © Simon Deiner / SDR Photo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing on a catwalk as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Designs by Marianne Fassler© Simon Deiner / SDR Photo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
South African fashion designer Thula Sindi photographed by Victor Dlamini© Photo Victor Dlamini
A photo of a four men wearing fashionable clothing outside a bar in Africa as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
The Sartists (Wanda Lephoto, Xzavier Zulu, Kabelo Kungwane and Andile Buka)© Victor Dlamini

Fashion Nairobi

A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Papa Petit of 2ManySiblings© Sarah Waiswa
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Papa Petit of 2ManySiblings© Sarah Waiswa
A photo of four men wearing fashionable clothing next to a swimming pool as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
African music superstars Sauti Sol photographed by Sarah Waiswa© Photo Sarah Waiswa
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Sunny Dolat photographed by Sarah Waiswa© Photo Sarah Waiswa
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
2ManySiblings© Sarah Waiswa
A photo of two people wearing street clothes next to a field as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
2ManySiblings (Velma Rossa and Papa Petit)© Sarah Waiswa

Fashion Lagos

A photo of three women wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
The Sagoe girls (Clan) photographed by Lakin Ogunbanwo© Lakin Ogunbanwo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Reni Folawiyo (CEO / founder of ALARA) © Photo Lakin Ogunbanwo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Deola Sagoe photographed by Lakin Ogunbanwo© Photo Lakin Ogunbanwo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Yegwa Ukpo (co-founder of Stranger)© Lakin Ogunbanwo
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Bubu Ogisi (IAMISIGO) photographed by Lakin Ogunbanwo© Photo Lakin Ogunbanwo

Fashion Casablanca

A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Amine Bendriouich photographed by Deborah Benzaquen© Photo Deborah Benzaquen
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing on a seat with a cat
Amina Agueznay photographed by Deborah Benzaquen© Photo Deborah Benzaquen
A photo of a person wearing fashionable clothing as part of Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum
Zhor Raïs photographed by Deborah Benzaquen © Photograph Deborah Benzaquen
  • Fashion Cities Africa is at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery from April 30 2016 – January 8 2017. The exhibition book is released on 15 April 2016. Ruby McGonigle has been part of the museum’s Workforce Development programme, offering staff opportunities to switch departments and try new roles. She is the voice behind the exhibition’s social media accounts, regularly posting behind-the-scenes snaps and nuggets on Instagram, Tumblr and the Brighton Museums blog.
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