Creating a Buzz
The most exciting emerging design talent currently is coming out of Africa, says a top local design consultant, and to find it you only need to check out Instagram
The term “African design” is a bit of a misleading term these days. Without a doubt there is a huge surge in design and lifestyle across the continent, but to claim it to be one thing is notional. African styles in fashion, design and art are as diverse as any European style, and as on other continents, there are certain nations where design consciousness and creative skills are simply part of the DNA of the country. Some countries shine well above the others, due not only to specific cultural traditions and arts and crafts, but also to new wealth, government recognition and increasing commerce. Just as South Africa stands out among its Southern African neighbours in design and fashion, so too do Morocco and Tunisia in the North, and Kenya and Ethiopia in the East. But it is in the West that a new force in African design and fashion is booming in countries like Senegal, Ghana and Mali. That is not to say there is a lack of design talent in other countries, it’s just that these places are on their way to becoming design hubs much like Denmark, France and the UK.
As a researcher and design observer, I find change makers more fascinating than the trends they create, and I have learnt that with all great design nations there is usually a common trajectory to design development. Design movements often start at street level with the young and adventurous, anti-establishment figures who challenge the norm with impertinent bravado and a shock-of-the-new. But within a decade these young pioneers and creators of new urban tribes and cultish fashion become the establishment, and for a few successful ones the fashion elite. A healthy fashion scene triggers a café and bar society; after all, you need smart social places to strut your stuff. It is also no coincidence that art and fashion go hand in hand – the two are mutually beneficial and depend on each other, having usually risen from the same creative originators.
A good café culture encourages great retail and hospitality with increasing standards and innovations, enlivening city life. In tandem you will have the opening of galleries and museums, design and fashion events, fashion weeks and design shows attracting tourism and related businesses. Architecture and interior design begin to flourish, and eventually it all leads to a new elegance and development of luxury brands. We have seen this happen in Joburg in the past decade, and it is happening in Nairobi and Dakar, Marrakech and Accra in equal measure.
CATHY O’CLERY is the creative director of Platform Creative Agency, which facilitates, curates and
directs brands and brand experiences, with flagship projects such as the Zeitz MOCAA shop, 100%
Design South Africa and Business of Design. platformcreative.co.za, @designafric
But if there is a uniting force, a reason it is all happening now across the continent, it’s not simply because it is Africa’s time (which it is) but also because of one tool that has huge global impact: Instagram.
TEXT Cathy O’Clery PHOTOGRAPHS Supplied, Adriaan Louw, Francis Kokoroko