Africa Fashion Week London - an annual fashion show that showcases African-inspired clothes and accessories - took place about two weeks ago now. I'll be honest I had never even heard of AFWL until this year- a model I met in a fashion show earlier this year, Maggie Smith, was the face of it.
She looks incredible doesn't she. You know that little squeal of pride followed by 'I know her!' when you see someone you know doing big things and going places, yeah I'll admit to having done a little bit of that whenever I mentioned AFWL to anyone...
I've always found African high fashion interesting as I feel that it's an area where western and African cultures can collide and produce things that are unique and beautiful. And let me tell you, this year's show did in no way prove me wrong. Here are some of my favourite pieces from the show.
I think the other reason I love African high fashion is (and I know this may sound a bit lame/annoying but bare with me) that I get to see slim African women celebrated and working it. This may sound strange especially to people of the western culture where slim has always been in but for an African woman it's hard to be slim sometimes. I won't speak for all African cultures but in Nigeria curves are celebrated, it's seen as sexy and healthy and well it's what makes you a woman. And do you know what? I love that, I love that my culture on the whole doesn't scrutinize us for our love of carbs (yes we are big rice people). However the movement has gotten to the point now where slim women are made to feel like they're not beautiful or womanly at all because they don't naturally have with that bottle-shaped figure.
On the Facebook page 'African Girls Killing It' I've read comments along the lines of 'I don't like skinny girls' and 'real African women have curves'. These comments were both made by other women surprisingly. Now reading comments like this on the photos of gorgeous women was scary for me to say the least.
Those kind of comments remind me all too well of the rude comments that I've had thrown at me over the years by other girls, funnily enough often by people I would call my friends and still do by the way. If we crucified a person every time they said something dumb or spiteful, we'd whittle down the population fast.
It's very easy to fall into the trap of 'body stereotypes' where you feel like you need to fit the stereotype of what is 'Nigerian' or whatever your culture may be. Trust me I know, I fall prey to it every now and again, and that's not to say that I'm against working in a healthy way to adjust your body to what you would prefer. But chasing after the expectations of people or the current culture is very tiring. And kind of depressing.
The aim of this post isn't to try and put one body type down in the process of lifting one up. Too many people have done that already and have just made a mess of other people's self esteem. This is to ALL women (curvy, slender, African or otherwise) you are beautiful not for your big bum or wide hips, not for your flat stomach or your long legs, you are beautiful simply because you are. Because the God I know doesn't make ugly.
It is too easy to let words bother you and make you feel like you need to change yourself to satisfy those around you and 'look good'. But one thing I've learnt in the last few years of my life is that it is my responsibility first and foremost to love myself and hold myself to my physical standards only, not that of others. My advice to anyone else struggling is to set yourself free and do the same.
*All photographs in this post (excl. the last) were sourced from http://www.africafashionweeklondon.com/