JOHANNESBURG, November 28 — South African Precious Moloi-Motsepe, one of the richest women in Africa, is a staunch supporter of fashion designers from the young, vibrant and culturally diverse continent.
Style has run through her veins since she was a child growing up in Soweto Township, and for her the time has come for “African designers to shine” on the international platform.
A decade and a half ago, he founded the Johannesburg and Cape Town fashion weeks that bring together designers from across the continent with the aim of positioning them on the world stage.
His goal is now beginning to bear fruit, he told AFP with a confident smile, at a new luxury boutique in an affluent district of Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic capital.
“Now more than ever, African designers are getting recognition here at home,” said the 58-year-old, elegantly made up and in flowing black trousers with a silk blouse.
“At the big events on the continent, music awards, football events, you will find celebrities wearing local designers,” said the wife of the president of the African Football Confederation, Patrice Motsepe. “They have definitely become household names.”
With her husband, the ninth richest man in Africa according to Forbesthey are the most prominent “power couple” in South Africa.
Elsewhere, “celebrities, Michelle Obama or Beyonce, … are now wearing African brands,” he said, adding that the Wakanda phenomenon, linked to the movie Black Panther, has “spread our culture, our heritage, to the world. That also has an impact on the driving of fashion.”
Moloi-Motsepe grew up in Soweto, a poor township that was a hotbed of resistance to the apartheid regime. It was there that she acquired a sense of style.
“My grandmother made her own clothes… and she dressed them so elegantly,” she said. Soweto “people loved to dress up”, albeit closely shaped by and following American trends and brands.
Later she had the opportunity to travel and attended a fashion show in Paris by the talented designer John Galliano.
It was a shocking revelation, realizing that designers “take inspiration from history, heritage, culture, which I thought Africa had in abundance.”
Africa seemed to be a source of inspiration for Western designers, “but I didn’t see many African designers on the runways,” he said.
That was the trigger for creating a space to “propel the best of African creators to global acclaim,” a project the medical doctor turned philanthropist and creative arts financier embarked on with vigor.
“First I had to make sure that they were well recognized here at home, that we changed our mindset, that African fashion designers were appreciated and valued by people,” not just as tailors but as respected designers.
That was an ambitious challenge, not yet realized but underway.
“African consumers now recognize that their own designers are just as valuable as any of the brands they buy globally,” he said.
One of those showing up at fashion week in Johannesburg last week was Cameroonian fashion designer, Anna Ngann Yonn, whose brand Kreyann is making a name for itself in Afralsoca and beyond.
The fashion weeks he launched in South Africa, featuring supermodels like South Sudanese Alek Wek and prestigious guests from New York, Milan and Paris, have allowed designers to “showcase their work, network with other designers and gain media attention.” ”.
The next leg of the mission is to take them to “international platforms” to ensure Africa’s presence in the global fashion dialogue. Africans in the diaspora are playing a key role as ambassadors.
The businessman remembers taking some African designers to exhibit in Paris on the sidelines of fashion shows a few years ago.
Some of the comments were “positive, some not so positive,” he said, laughing softly. But “we take that as a step in the right direction.”
“What was important to young designers and what we thought were established designers then, and still is now, is voice,” Moloi-Motsepe said.
Africans continue to be underrepresented among the top global brands. And in many parts of Africa, sporting foreign brands is still a symbol of social success, he agreed.
“We have a lot of work to do,” she said, but the African fashion advocate is not deterred. — AFP