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Do we need an African version of Vogue Magazine?

May 18th, 2010 | 5 Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Fashion, General


Recently, Paris-based Cameroonian photographer, Mauro Epanya, created a layout of what a possible African version of the trend-setting fashion glossy, Vogue Magazine would/could look like. The images, though creatively done, have sparked a debate about the merits of an African version of Vogue. In a well thought out analysis, Uduak at Labybrille Magazine, outlines the reasons why an African Vogue is not a good idea:

  • VOGUE Does Not Need to Validate Africa Before Africa Becomes Fashionable
  • The Internet has Created an African Fashion Media Revolution, So Why the Continued Need for Validation with a VOGUE Africa?
  • VOGUE Africa is Bad Business For Africa
  • VOGUE Africa Will Not Eliminate Racism in VOGUE’s Fashion Pages

For her part in the debate, Vanessa Raphaely, editor of Cosmopolitan South Africa and editorial director of Associated Magazines (Marie Claire, O, the Oprah Magazine, etc.) also writes an insightful commentary on her blog.

Then there’s the nuts and bolts of the business: Magazines generally follow where the cosmetic and fashion industry lead. On this continent, there are only two Vuitton stores. They are in Jozi and Cape Town, not in Gaberones, Brazzaville, Dar es Salaam or Libreville.

There is no High Street to speak of in Africa (not even in South Africa,) there is not a proliferation of shopping malls and high end international clothing giants littering the Sahara, North, Central, Western or East Africa,  ergo, little demand for advertising pages.

In South Africa, the powerhouse of the region, local manufacturing is floundering due to a failure to compete with Asia and The Far East with regard to price.

That is why there is, to date, not even a South African Vogue. While fashion magazines like Marie Claire and ELLE are both well-established in the country, neither has the advertising riches to thrive that their sisters in the more developed parts of the world enjoy.

Both, it can be argued, require less very high-end advertising than Vogue to achieve the expectations of their European principals.

It’s not rich pickings here on the wild frontier.

So, even though it irks me to be so pedestrian, I have to ask: who would advertise in this Pan-African Vogue?

In the short term, a Vogue Africa would get many people excited and even generate a bit of revenue. Soon enough though, the novelty will wear off and the realities of organizing, producing, and shipping an African glossy in a global economy which has not been kind to print media will take hold. From platform (print vs. digital) to talent (African writers vs. Western writers) to business strategy (South Africa headquarters or not), there are different factors to think of when planning Vogue-type content for Africa; and corporate accounts will not ease the pain. That’s not to say an African fashion and style magazine cannot exist, but rather the strategy to launch and maintain one would need to take into account certain factors which aren’t an issue in the West.

One of the side-effects of the marketing and advertising activity around the upcoming World Cup is that in an effort to  cash in on the African renaissance multinational corporations are again attempting to transplant their business models to a continent that lacks the same context that made those strategies successful in the West. They are looking to what their western experiences dictate and overlooking the unique opportunities that Africa has to offer – mobile  proliferation being one of them.

If major publishers like Vogue/Conde Nast want to enter African markets they should look to partner with “local” businesses who have already dealt with the challenges and figured out what African audiences want and need. As I said in the comments section of the Ladybille Magazine blog, there are many many African media and content creators whose efforts are still being overlooked because their success is judged by Western perspectives. It’ll do Africans and global partners well to recognize and capitalize on what makes African stories, contexts, and perspectives unique.

Read more on the debate:

VOGUE Africa? No. Thank you Very Much I’ll Pass!

Is the World Ready for an African Vogue?

Fashion Enthusiasts Ponder Vogue Africa

Vogue Africa Creator Mario Epanya Responds to Critics

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Designer Ozwald Boateng on dressing President Obama and his Made in Africa wealth initiative

August 31st, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Business, Charity, Events, Fashion, Film/Television, Politics, Travel

In this three part series fashion designer Ozwald Boateng talks with CNN about outfitting President Obama for his recent Ghana visit and the designer’s new initiative “Made in Africa”.

Part 1: Tailoring for the President
CNN’s Monita Rajpal talks British-Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng about his rise to fame and tailoring for President Obama’s Ghanaian visit.

Part 2: Made in Africa Ozwald Boateng talks about ‘Made in Africa.’ An organization designed to promote wealth and self sufficiency in Africa

Part 3: Designer to role model
British-Ghanaian tailor Ozwald Boateng explains his plans to help tailor Africa’s image problems.

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Prada space captures rural Congo experience

January 12th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Charity, Events, Fashion, Featured, General, Travel

Influx Insights points us to an interesting marriage of Congolese and Western culture in the form of an art and entertainment experience space. The Double Club, a 6 month project collaboration between Fondazione Prada (Prada’s art foundation), and German artist Carsten Höller opened in London. The space, which is literally spit in two – is a “bar, restaurant and dance club where the Congo meets the west; A bar,
restaurant and dance club where the west meets the Congo.” The project is meant to spark dialogue between Congolese and Western contemporary culture and will feature. All profits are slated to go to The City of Joy charity, which provides
shelter and services to women who have been targets of violence during
Congo’s long running civil warIf you’re in London before May 2009, check out this culture mashup.

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Annansi notes: Brangelina buys Ethiopia, Africom, MTV Africa awards begins, (RED)washing at Gap

  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie bought Ethiopia. (Not the African country itself, but the island which represents Ethiopia in Dubai’s island phenomenon The World)
  • American general seeks to play down fears over new Africa command. (Uhhh… sure. No worries.)
  • Africa’s nuclear hopes. (Could this be the solution to the electricity shortages?)
  • MTV begins Africa Music Awards (Viacom knows where the money is)
  • More (RED)washing at The Gap (African charity still gets consumers in the retail door)
  • Gucci’s African charity Indy bag drops (holidays + African charity = $$$$)
  • India eyes Africa to meet rising energy needs (African’s need to refine and accelerate our business models)
  • First black (Nigerian) mayor elected in Ireland (A Nigerian Irish mayor. Wow!)
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African Design Competition: Design a Uniform, Shape a School

August 15th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted in Art, Business, Fashion, General

Here’s a good opportunity for African creatives to get some real world projects under their belt:
The African Leadership Academy, a world-class boarding school opening outside Johannesburg, South Africa on September 2008, has launched a pan-African design competition to solicit designs for the Academy’s inaugural school uniform. The competition is open to individual students or groups of students between the ages of 12 and 20 all across Africa. The best design will be decided by an international panel which will include world-renowned African fashion designers, and the winner will be commemorated with a plaque at the Academy. The first round runs until the 15th of November.

For more information about the competition visit the ALA website.

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Video: Ozwald Boateng Fashion Show at African Union Summit, Ghana

July 24th, 2007 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, Charity, Events, Fashion, General, Travel

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Hip-hop’s African ancestry at Odyssey Awards

Beverly Fab5 and Kofi at H20Last Saturday I attended the 5th Annual Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) Awards, held at BB Kings in New York City. Organized by the Hip-Hop Association, the awards ceremony recognized today’s hottest Hip-Hop filmmakers, industry professionals and pioneers. The event always features appearances and performances by Hip-Hop heavyweights. This year’s event, as usual, was packed with many of the individuals who have played a major part in shaping the hip-hop landscape including, artist/entrepreneur/hip-hop personality Fab 5 Freddy (that’s him in the picture standing in front of me as we listen to DJ Beverly Bond speak about YO! MTV Raps’ late producer Ted Demme), Ice-T (who gave an excellent acceptance speech about staying true to oneself), Dana Dane, Grand Wizard Theodore, (Dr.) Roxanne Shante, Ralph McDaniels (Video Music Box), The Cold Crush Brothers, Chubb Rock and much more.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the awards and the preceding H2O International Film Festival, is how the organizers (Martha Diaz, Rolando Brown etc) make a conscious effort to show the influence of African (and international) cultures on the growth of America’s hip-hop/urban culture. A few years back, besides the performance by the Nomadic Wax Global Hip-hop All-stars’ Chosan (Sierra Leone) , Eli Efi (Brazil) , and El Gambina (Korea), the festival grand prize went to Hip-Hop Colony, a film about the African hip-hop explosion – now on DVD. This year Hip-Hop Colony’s Kenyan director, Michael Wanguhu, was on hand to present an award. To further encourage the hip-hop generation to connect with Africa, this year’s awards was sponsored by and involved a presentation by popular DNA lineage identification company African Ancestry Inc. Some of you might remember that African Ancestry Inc. was the company behind VH1′s Spike Lee-directed February (Black History month) spot which promoted a stronger connection between African-Americans and the African continent through DNA swab testing. African Ancestry’s President, Gina Paige, was on hand at this year’s H2O Awards ceremony to present the evening’s host, Paul Mooney, with his personal DNA test results. Upon revealing that Paul Mooney’s lineage goes back to Guinea-Bissau (I don’t remember which specific ethnic group was cited), Gina Paige presented Mr. Mooney with a folder containing the details of the tests as well as a t-shirt with a Guinea-Bissau logo. A very nice touch.

African Ancestry offers a great solution for African-Americans looking to re-connect with their African heritage. With the DNA procedure gaining popularity and support from African-American celebrities like Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg, LeVar Burton, Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, and Isaiah Washington – who also holds a seat on African Ancestry’s Board of Directors -, and media outlets from ABC’s Good Morning America to PBS championing the efforts, African Ancestry has already begun to solidify the link between African-American and African cultures.

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Top African-American talent plan trip to African Union Summit, Ghana

African Union Summit Hollywood Group

On Friday, June 15th, some of Hollywood’s most influential African-American talent got together at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, California for a panel discussion on promoting African-American interest in Africa. The meeting also served to organize a trip to attend the 9th Annual African Union Summit in Ghana next week. The gathering was organized by designer Ozwald Boateng, and included Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Mos Def, Herbie Hancock, James Mathis, and Isaiah Washington – whose Gondobay Manga Foundation was started after he discovered that he is genetically linked to Sierra Leone’s Mende people. During the African Union Summit, held in Ghana from 25 June – 3 July 2007, 50 influential African-Americans will meet with the 53 attending African presidents to discuss the continent’s future. The African Union Summit’s ultimate goal is of full political and economic integration leading to the United States of Africa. It’s good to see African-Americans playing an active part in planning Africa’s future.

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Live modeling Adidas’ Materials of the World

SHOWstudio and Adidas Materials of the WorldRenowned fashion photographer Nick Knight is at it again with another fashion/art/multimedia project. His seminal SHOWstudio site – through which I had the honor of participating on the iD Magazine/London Fashion Week “Bring and Buy” project some years ago – now features a commercial project that “rethinks traditional advertising using motion image”. The project features 10 models from a range of mixed ethnic backgrounds -five male and five female- filmed wearing pieces from adidas’s new ‘Materials of the World’ line, “a collection influenced by the indigenous fabrics of different world cultures”. If you’d like to see the latest release of the Adidas Materials of the World Africa jackets in action on live models head over to the SHOWstudio Skin project site.

Skin is an undertaking by the company &Son, the creative consultancy run by stylists Simon Foxton and Nick Griffiths; a commercial project that rethinks traditional advertising using motion image. Ten models from a range of mixed ethnic backgrounds -five male and five female- are filmed wearing pieces from adidas’s new ‘Materials of the World’ line, a collection influenced by the indigenous fabrics of different world cultures. Over a period of ten days beginning on May 10, the living portraits will be also be displayed in the windows of a Curtain Road shop front in London’s Shoreditch where the attention of passers by will be tested to register that it is film and not stills that they are seeing. In this sense, Skin is a subtle development out of Simon Foxton’s previous Sittings: Thirty Men project of 2005 and a handsome addition to SHOWstudio’s ongoing study of living fashion portraiture.

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Africa’s next chapter convenes at TEDGlobal 2007

Chris Anderson and Emeka Okafor at TEDGlobalOne of the most important events for Africa’s technology, entertainment, and design industry development, TEDGlobal 2007, is in full swing in Arusha, Tanzania. Coming from vacation I have been reinvigorated by all the developments coming out of this seminal event. Now in it’s 3rd day, the conference has already given me more than enough insight into innovative ideas behind Africa’s next chapter. With all the information and idea sharing at this event, the African blogosphere is sure to be fueled for a long time to come. Below are some important resources for keeping up to date with the happenings in Tanzania. I’ll be watching and listening closely as I hope you all are.

Live updates:
Soyapi Mumba is Twittering TEDGlobal
Ethan Zuckerman of My Heart’s in Accra is live-blogging

Other bloggers at TEDGlobal 2007:
TEDFellow Erik Hersman, of White African
TEDFellow Rafiq Phillips at WebAddiCT
David McQueen
Africa Beat, by Jennifer Brea
Mental Acrobatics
TEDFellow Mweshi
TEDFellow Fran Osseo-Asare, of Betumi: The African Food Network
TEDFellow Soyapi Mumba
TEDFellow Ramon Thomas, of NETucation
Ndesanjo Macha, who writes Digital Africa, in English, and Jikomboe, in Swahili
Ellen Horne at Radio Lab in Tanzania
Sam Ritchie
Harinjaka (in French)
Kenyan Pundit, by TED Conference speaker and blogger Ory Okolloh
Timbuktu Chronicles, by TEDGlobal conference director Emeka Okafor
and of course you can get official updates at the TED blog site

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