Edward Enninful, the new Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, has already put his money where his mouth is, with a reformed and more inclusive vision for the future of the UK edition. I mean look at how beautiful this cover is! I am here for this on so many levels and this is an exciting time to be alive – watching change happen right before your eyes is an inspiring feeling and I salute Edward for keeping true to his vision and starting a chapter that will fill so many lives with such positive energy.
Naomi Campbell, while visiting Nigeria recently, voiced the need for a Vogue Africa since the motherland has contributed significantly to fashion worldwide. I’m not gonna lie the idea is cute but if there are country specific editions from the US to Ukraine to India to Vogue Poland, the latter being one of the newer editions being set up, then AFRICA – the 54 country continent with over 2000 languages and such unfathomable diversity – cannot be squished into one edition.
I know it’s for the love of diversity, but for who really? I was just having a conversation with a friend from Australia and she was so happy to see billboards around Nairobi with African people on them. Just because representation is an issue in the West doesn’t mean that Africa becomes the answer for whatever subconcious guilt industries feel on that side. It makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable that people in power, even when their intentions are good, will still try to appropriate, extort or only support the top 1% in a ploy to “empower” people. If you want to empower and represent the African people, be an ally and give them the tools they need for their voices to be heard, through their own lenses.
If we put all of this to the side, I find this idea to be incredibly elitist. Let’s be honest Vogue might be a ‘fashion bible’, but it’s for sure not more influential than the kids on your IG explore pages and it definitely is not religion for the everyday person. If we’re getting context-specific, Africa has the largest youth demographic in the world, and thanks to cheaper smart phones and more affordable data plans, young people are more well-connected than people give them credit for. This breeds innovation, originality and fashion. Any magazine that is to represent Africa has to speak to them and as iconic as Vogue is, I don’t think it speaks to the average 15-28 year old African. People don’t mind second-hand clothing or thrifting – it’s about the hustle and looking phenomenal although you haven’t spent racks. Being fashion-forward but still original.
Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, which means there is an expanding middle class who yes are shopping a whole more, however it’s still naïve to think that income is disposable enough to be buying Vogue. I mean let’s be honest, if designers were actually paying for the designs they were parading on runways and including this continent of creative wealth, then that would be something else. But this pseudo-belonging/validation that would come with a Vogue Africa isn’t gonna do anything for the fashion industries.
China has become the go-to for anything and everything to do with the fashion industry as a result of cheaper prices, but with prices slowly rising, the African fashion market is looking to become the new leader for more economic sustainable production for fashion leaders. From music to food, fashion to tourism, this is where it’s alwas been at but I think it’s time for us to put ourselves on. What do you think?
We’re individuals, we’re trendsetters and we’re gonna own our voices and narratives.