Industrie Africa explores how fringe commands the collections of these contemporary African labels.
Aug 31, 2020
If images of cowboys, quickdraw gun fights, and rodeos pop into your mind when you think of fringe, we really can’t blame you. After all, the sartorial ornamentation has long been associated with our idea of the “Wild Wild West”, an idea that has been reinforced by designers like Ralph Lauren, with his enduring Western-inspired collections. But out of this context, incorporating fringe into our wardrobe can be a bit of a challenge; in fact, fringe—whether it’s application is loud and bold, or gentle and subdued—is probably one of the harder trends to pull off. But when you get it right, it adds a certain dimension and texture that few other design appliqués can, and as it continues to pop up in the collections of designers the world over (including the FW ‘20 runway collections of Bottega Veneta, Prada and Rochas), we think it’s high time you gave fringe a fighting chance. Here’s how some of our favourite African designers are incorporating the trend into their collections.
Photo: Point Fringe Dress. Courtesy of Awa Meité
One glance at Awa Meité’s intricately crafted pieces and you may find yourself racing to embrace the trend of fringe head on. The monochromatic color scheme of her Point Fringe Dress and Skirt are inspired by the black and white work of the legendary Malian photographer, Malick Sidibé, and provide the ideal backdrop for its fringe detail, which vivifies and brings movement to an otherwise relatively neutral look. “90% of our collections are made with textiles that we create in our weaving workshops,” Meité says. “And when using cotton weaves, the threads become fringe, lending an effect of freedom and fluidity to an almost geometric material.” For the Malian designer however, the technique isn't simply ornamental: rather it’s a means by which she emphasises the value of local cotton production and eco-friendly practices. According to Meité, her use of fringe serves as a glimpse into the unique process employed in the crafting of her pieces. “For me, fringe is not just a trend. Rather it’s a sign of how, from a sustainability perspective, every part of the materials we use is precious.”
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“90% of our collections are made with textiles that we create in our weaving workshops,” Meité says. “And when using cotton weaves, the threads become fringe, lending an effect of freedom and fluidity to an almost geometric material.”
Photo: Dark Blue Ilamoye Mule. Courtsey of Shekudo
If you’re a little nervous about fully embracing fringe, may we suggest the footwear collections of Nigerian based brand Shekudo? The delicate fringed trim on their slip-on mules are an easy way to add just a touch to your everyday wardrobe. “I loved the look of fringe,” the brand’s creative director, Akudo Iheakanwa, tells us. “I really wanted to add a bit of texture to the plain weave and after trying multiple types of embroidery, it was pretty clear that fringe gave it a kind of dimension nothing else did.” Aside from its aesthetic appeal though, the injection of fringe was also inspired by and serves as a kind of tribute to the costumes Iheakanwa saw as a young girl in the Masquerade festivals of East Nigeria. Though she remembers the festival as relatively scary, the fringe of the participants’ elaborate and colorful costumes made such an impression on her that she later incorporated it into her work. “For me, this lends the fringe detailing a level of meaning it otherwise would not have.”
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Photo: Akwaocha Tunic Courtesy of Fruché
“The first time I worked with fringe was on my 2017 “Venusians” collection, which was inspired by strong powerful Nigerian women like [novelist] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,” says Nigerian designer Frank Aghuno, creator of the ready-to-wear brand Fruché. Featuring a standout, frayed fringe hem, the brand’s bohemian, unisex Akwaocha tunic is another item that allows you to dip a toe into the trend. For Aghuno, his use of fringe also serves as a reminder that the fashionable detail doesn’t necessarily come from where we assume it does. “Though fringe still manifests through western inspired clothing and dresses that feel reminiscent of the 1920’s flappers, I think it is important to remember that the idea of fringe itself is more indigenous [to the African continent] than you’d think. Different cultures have passed this technique down through generations.” While Fruché’s use of fringe certainly adds an extra element of flair and a kick of fun to clothing, he makes clear that it’s not about fringe for fringe’s sake: it’s presence is more for the purpose of adding refinement and clever accents.
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“Though fringe still manifests through western inspired clothing and dresses that feel reminiscent of the 1920’s flappers, I think it is important to remember that the idea of fringe itself is more indigenous [to the African continent] than you’d think”
Photo: Baw Pot Natural Bag. Courtesy of AAKS
Founded by Ghanaian designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, AAKS is known for its handwoven raffia bags that infuse a dash of summer and a dose of fun into any look into which they’re incorporated. The fringed pompoms of the Hawa Rainbow bag add a sense of joy and energy to what is a classic, woven basket style, while their Baba Berry bag is the hold-all of our dreams. These bags stem from a kaleidoscope of influences and inspiration, and are a celebration of the ancestral weaving of northern Ghana. Made using locally sourced raffia, Afriyie-Kumi explains the intricate process behind the fringe’s deep, beautiful shades. She says it takes approximately 10 - 30 minutes to dye each strand depending on the colour wanted. Then, once the raffia is dried, weavers skillfully manoeuvre the strands of the fibres until the bags take shape. “It was a tough journey at the start,” she tells The Culture Trip. “The weavers had not used raffia before, but I wanted to push this material forward in my brand due to its ethical value.” Afriyie-Kumi had always known that she wanted to use raffia due to it’s extremely durable yet soft nature and, after lots of experimentation, she and her weavers stumbled across the fringe accent in their bag making process almost by mistake. “A beautiful mistake!” she’s quick to assert.
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