It’s quite possible that I was raised by the only African mother who doesn’t believe that voluptuous body types are beautiful, but if I’m not, I blame colonization (as I do for pretty much everything).
Growing up, it was always hard to find the strength inside me to shut out the thousands of reasons both she and the media gave me to hate my chubby tummy, thick thighs, and round face, but from time to time I found comfort in knowing that the being tall, thin, and white was a eurocentric beauty preference. Being American (first-generation), that’s what I always had to consider, but, being African, it made sense to look to the elephant ear-shaped continent where I found that there are many more things that different cultures find beautiful, including big women.
Fast-forward about 10 years and you’ll find a world where technology is wholly accessible and social media is
king queen*. Press play in 2015 and you’ll also find that African fashion has gained steady popularity, though it is still in an early adoption stage. As an aspiring fashion designer, the new-found Afrocentrism is extremely exciting for me. I and other African designers’, both aspiring and on the rise, only hope is that African designers and African nations will be the main ones profiting off the adoption of African fashion in the western world. Racism in the fashion industry is a huge issue that I will continue to explore in this blog, quite often I’m sure; however, I want to start by asking the question that my colleagues have not and probably will not ask: Why are African brands not making clothing for plus-size women?
Like the fashion-loving fat girl I am, the first thing I thought about upon realizing the doors being opened for African fashion, was that there were going to be more people in the industry fighting for, or at least catering to, plus-sizes. Call it wishful thinking or just plain naivete, but imagine my dismay to learn that most of the apparel designers’ sizes stop at size 10. The first thing I asked myself was, “Is this the new standard for Africans now or is this the compromise we have to make to succeed in the Western-dominated industry?”
Am I wrong to believe that in promoting diversity in the fashion industry, designers should also promote diverse beauty ideals? The same way that non-Africans who make collections “inspired” by African fashion without using any black models leaves a bad taste in my mouth, African fashion that is inaccessible in bigger sizes just feels plain wrong. Pop in any given African movie into a DVD player and you’ll see thick and fat women galore because Nollywood doesn’t play by Hollywood’s rules—yet, but neither should African fashion. I implore African designers to take this opportunity to twist, bend, and turn the fashion industry inside out. Celebrate the fact that Africa is an entire continent full of beautiful black women of all different shades, shapes, and sizes, and bring that realization and mindset to the industry. It’s time to refuse compromise and break down the boundaries, especially since there is a HUGE market of women like myself who have nothing to wear and would love to know that there is a place in this world where fat, thick, and curvy women are not only accepted, but admired, that is, of course, if that is still the case.
Oh yeah, and please do it before the culture vultures in the fashion industry stick a dashiki on a size 8 model and not only call her plus-size, but say that they came up with the idea. You know that’s how it ALWAYS happens. For once, let us be the first to make money off our own ideas.