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Nkiti African Print in Fashion

African Prints in Fashion

by Amarachi Chukwu

Despite the cross-continental history and journey that brought us what we now refer to as Ankara, these African prints are central to Nigerian— as well as other African nations’— fashion and culture. African prints are part of every facet of our lives from the regular occurrences, like weekly church services, to the extraordinary, like weddings and other celebrations.

In Nigeria we have seen how African prints are imbued with significance from being used in weddings to show belonging to the groom or bride’s family (Asoebi), to being used in village meetings where all the women who belong are expected to wear specific identifying print. 

African print aso ebi at traditional wedding

As with everything, globalization, mainstream media, and social media have affected how African prints are imagined, incorporated and worn across the world. The African diaspora is present in all corners of the world and as a people that have often learnt the importance of standing out and standing proud in our culture, our clothes have often been a big way we maintain connection to the continent.

No matter where you are in the world we know Africans will still wear our traditional clothes to church, to International Day events in high school, to countless weddings and even to stay at home.

The expansive African diaspora and globalization aided by social media have influenced fashion in so many ways. From inspiring fusions like what we create here at Nkiti, to complicating what we see in Hollywood as classic and elegant.

From artists like Jidenna who iconically rocks bespoke African print suits to Naomi Campbell walking for Nigerian designers. 

Jidenna in African Print Fabric

Let's not forget about Viola Davis and Tracee Ellis Ross wearing African print on red carpets!

Viola Davis African Print Dress

African print is omnipresent on the continent and across the diaspora.

African print in all the magnificent ways they are fashioned, continues to be an item that allows Black people to proudly claim their connections to the cultures and continent of Africa. It allows this for those in the diaspora and reflects simultaneous belonging and individuality for those on the continent.

In a world that often portrays Africa in un-nuanced ways, African fashion and design is one of the many narratives that complicates the perspective and shows the beauty and artistry that exists across the continent.


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