Alae Ismail, Co-Founder of Styled By Africa, Friends of Film Africa, shares their top style favourites from contemporary African cinema
Over the years we’ve had the privilege of meeting some of Africa’s most innovative creatives and collaborating on concepts that take traditional African heritage to the next level while breaking boundaries. In this edition of iconic styles in African cinema we take a look at contemporary looks and explore the journeys that are paving the way for the next generation.
To Catch A Dream, Kenya, 2015
During our visit to Chichia London’s AW15 exhibition in August we got the chance to see The Nest Collectives short adaption of To Catch A Dream starring model Ajuma Nasenyana. The Nest Collective and Chico Leco collaborated with eight local designers to reflect on Africa’s fairy tale remedies. Each scene shows Ajuma wearing a bold statement piece such as the red and black maxi dress seen on the poster. The multi-tone fabrics and deep colours used were able to emphasis the complexity of Ajuma’s character and this constant need to understand her pain and situation, all of which added menace depth and mystery to the film.
Necktie Youth, South Africa, 2015
Winner of the Best South African Film and Best Director at Durban International Film Festival, Necktie Youth looks at the devastating effects of drugs, alcohol and death on a group of Johannesburg youths. Director Shongwe-La Mer has used beautiful black and white shoots to focus on the content and narrative.
We’ve seen some amazing fashion brands come out of South Africa, like our very own Sindiso Khumalo and Laduma Mahosa. And inspirational style images from Boys of Sowoto who are now launching their own tailored sartorial suits that’s refer back to their townships. So when we found out that Necktie Youth was also shot in South Africa it felt very significant as it allows us as viewers to see the multi-layer context of where many fashion brands get their inspiration. We love the contemporary style of this film as it gives a raw and edgy glimpse of a generation born after the fall of Apartheid, which has not been seen in African cinema before.
An African City, Ghana, 2014
Hit web series An African City is based on five African-diaspora women returning back to Accra, Ghana to seek new adventures in their lives. Admittedly, we’ve watched this series in a day (and on repeat) so you can tell we’re fans already. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters, as they remind you of previous relationships, but what we love most is the fashion! We are spoilt by the number of exciting Ghanaian fashion brands that appear on the show like Ameyo, Osei Duro and Mina Evans. What’s more exciting is that we’ve had the privilege of working with the team on Season 2 sourcing more fashion and accessory brands from across the continent; as the characters develop so does their style. What makes An African City so stylish and innovative is that the Director Nicole Amarteifio has tried to share her personal perspective of an alternative narrative, and steering away from the danger of a single story that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies had mentioned in her inspirational TED Talk.
Half of a Yellow Sun, Nigeria, 2013
I’m sure this film needs no introduction but in case you missed it Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun was turned into a feature film starring our favourite ladies and Styled By Africa supporters Thandie Newton as twin sister Olanna and Anika Noni Rose as Kainene. Costume designer Jo Katsaras from South Africa did an amazing job in reinterpreting 1960’s Nigeria using luxurious African fabrics, ankara print and jewels that are to die for. Our favourite look has to be the glamorous New Years party in which Olanna and Kainene escape dinner with the family to whine and dine with Lagos’s high society. Jo managed to capture a time in history by using modern prints and tailoring to make the twins look timeless.
Afripedia, Kenya/Angola/Senegal/Ghana/South Africa, 2014
Director Teddy Goitom has recently launched Afripedia, a five-part documentary exploring the coolest creatives from Angola, Kenya, Angola, Ghana and South Africa. His fresh and edgy cinematic skills make the documentary seem so current and projects the image of a “new, hip and cool” African creative scene. Unfortunately it’s only been aired on Swedish TV station SVT Kunskapskanalen, but rumour has it that he’ll be shooting his 6th episode in North Africa and will make a feature film on all cities. All the episodes look super cool but what we love most is that Teddy has featured Senegalese designer, Selly Raby Kane and her Alien Cartoon collection. Her pieces are bold and futuristic, you can’t help but admire Selly for creating a concept that is unorthodox to African fashion and reinventing the definition of African wear by experimenting with colour, texture and style… a reflection of what a “New Africa” would look like.