Don’t know what designer Janeshia Adams-Ginyard is donning — but she wins!

Why Did The “Black Panther” Premiere Miss The Opportunity To Celebrate The Supremacy of African Designers?

The glitzy premiere for Black Panther has come and gone and all we have left are the breathtakingly vibrant images that showcase what was undoubtedly a night to remember.

The highly-anticipated action flick has a lot of hype to live up to — and from what is being circulated — it appears that director Ryan Coogler and his stellar cast led by Chadwick Boseman — who embodies the title character — definitely did the damn thing and then some!

So, now that we have that settled — there is the other matter of what the stars of the night decided to wear as a fitting tribute to the regal themes of African royalty and the ancestral ties — that bind so beautifully — through the threads of consciousness — that were previously threatened — but obviously remain intact as the homage to an embedded tradition.

As I excitedly filtered through the incoming shots of Lupita & Co — I paid close attention to the names of designers sealed by each image — and it didn’t take long for the rush of disappointment to overwhelm me as it became jarringly clear — that the Kings and Queens of The Red Carpet had made the sad decision to reject the services of designers of African descent.

In the middle of all the fanfare, teary tweets of elation and retweets of eyewitness reports emitting from the festive scene — I had to be the reluctant buzzkill by adding my own contribution — based on what I had disappointingly discovered:

Apparently — I wasn’t the only one reeling from the notion that on such a spectacular night — that basically centered the narrative of a continent that is badly in need of immaculate exposure — after being serviced with the “shithole” comments — and all the other stereotypical shit that is usually assigned by the uneducated and righteously ignorant — there was a key item sorely lacking in the overall production.

So, why in the hell did the Black Panther premiere parade route lack the authentic vibes that would’ve been automatic if only African designers had been commissioned to do what they always do best? Why mess up the chance to extend the invitation of wealth and notability to the pillars of fashion — who are constantly being poached by the very designers that were featured on a night that didn’t deserve their entry?

It makes zero sense to have Lupita Nyong’o dressed in Versace while the iconically dope Angela Basset has to settle for a shimmery jumpsuit by Naeem Khan — when both ladies could’ve been doused in the gorgeous armor of Duro Olowu or even Mimi Plange. The adorably lithe beauty — Letitia Wright — could’ve benefited from a sparkly snug from the embrace of Lisa Folawiyo— and Deola Sagoe would’ve hooked up Danai Gurira’s uncannily perfect frame with the wrappings of embroidered riches.

Deola Sagoe

The point is that mainstream designers with all the privileges afforded them — including the attention of a global stage and the endless options for never-ending expansion — have no qualms shamelessly exploiting the rituals of a continent that is still trying to survive being molested by greedy fucks who did the exact same thing centuries ago.

Stella McCartney did it when she tried and failed to evoke a futuristic spin — utilizing the assistance of the African traditional cloth known as “ankara.” Burberry and Moschino have also attempted to present their rendition of “African-inspired” offerings under the guise of flamed inspiration — when it’s really about entitled laziness — that is bred from having the power to re-brand what you never owned in the first place.

It’s quite tragic and unnerving that in this climate of acute awareness with the deep responsibility of being keenly loyal to fibers of progressiveness — that has initiated all the incredible results showering in — through various facets of the industry — the memo that was supposed to guarantee the booking of every major African fashion house — somehow got lost in transit.

Back in 2012 — when I was still a New Yorker — trying to convince myself that I was native enough to make my rounds during Fashion Week with all the graces afforded — I managed to secure a third row seat to the first ever “African Icons” extravaganza — that was staged by Arise magazine — the once blazing publication that was supposed to be the Diaspora’s version of Vogue.

Arise didn’t quite rise to the occasion — but the designers that descended on Lincoln Center were captivating enough to promise their longevity. Of course their shows were regulated to the areas that weren’t as noteworthy as their distinguished counterparts — but the experience was still divine. The pride of watching my Nigerian compatriots dominate the space with the language of our fathers — sealed in glorious silhouettes — and the accompaniment of textured fabrics that did all the talking — was indeed something to behold.

The memories are deep and moving — and even though that fiesta was the last of its kind — I can’t help but recall it — each time I look at the Black Panther images and mentally re-dress all of the beautiful people in the regalia of their ancestry.

The fashion scene in Africa — particularly in Nigeria and Ghana has gained momentum in the last few years and this resurgence has peaked the interests of high-profile editors — who are now making annual jaunts to attend illustrious events like — Lagos Fashion and Design Week as well as Ghana Fashion and Design Week.

There is still a potent imbalance in a system that was designed to shut out those who are fashioned to remain voiceless — despite the gold they churn out — that somehow seeps into the threads of Versace, and all the other big names that are given unlimited access — to the point of injustice.

It’s startlingly weird that African designers were left out in the cold — in favor of the ones that haven’t produced anything remarkably innovative in decades. And the only explanation has to be either the pressure to settle for generic staples or the tragedy of just not being well-informed.

Either way — this is a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on what appears to be the secret that desperately needs to be unveiled.

Feast your eyes on this:

And this:

In the meantime — I will leave you with my all-time favorite picture of models at Milk Studios in Chelsea, New York — where Nigerian designer Duro Olowu held court during Fashion Week — back in 2011. I captured many images — but this one tugs at my heart.

Not bad!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store