Fashion: Dressing the African hipster
Hipster fashion is booming in Africa, as elsewhere in the world.
These retro-loving and indie bohemian men shop in second-hand stores for skinny jeans, bowler hats, thick-framed glasses and bomber jackets.
Women look for headscarves, high-waisted dresses and colourful clutch purses.
with the internet, there is no barrier to fashions coming from the United States
Now a rash of small African companies is taking advantage of the gap in the market left by designers who show at African fashion events but who are out of most people’s price range.
Designer Mbaye Ndaw was used to wearing the bow ties he found in the United States during a stint living there.
One day he asked himself, wouldn’t these look good made from West African fabrics?
And couldn’t he sell these to the many Africans living outside the continent keen to suit up in African hipster style?
On his return from the US he designed a range of men’s accessories that fit with the hipster sensibility.
His company, Kakinbow, named after the area in Conakry where he grew up, is about to launch a range of newsboy hats.
For now he makes mud-die and wax-print waistcoats and bow ties.
“Hipster fashion is very big here in Kenya,” says Diana Opoti, presenter and producer of the fashion programme Designing Africa.
“Second-hand products are very popular. And with the internet, there is no barrier to fashions coming from the United States. Nairobi is very trendy, everyone is aware of the fashions, and they each have their own style,” Opoti explains.
The trend is popular across the continent.
Diomande Leather Craft in Cape Town makes bespoke leather brogues and military boots for men and women, while Doreen Mashika in Zanzibar makes high-end iPad cases from Kanga cloth.
Kenya’s KikoRomeo turns out lovingly tailored jackets with small collars inset with wax-print fabrics.
Selling African-styled hipster clothes to Africans is an easy fit, says Ndaw.
Making them attractive to non- Africans is the next step.
“You have to push people and show them good products,” he says. “It won’t be easy but if they can see it looks good on them, it will work.”●