The advent of a new generation of African faces in the media signals the end of a truly localized fashion industry. For its February issue, British Vogue celebrates the rise of the African model and talks to some of those redrawing the map.
The publication’s latest issue features Adut Akech, Amar Akway, Majesty Amare, Akon Changkou, Maty Fall, Janet Jumbo, Abény Nhial, Nyagua Ruea and Anok Yai in a striking fashion story shot by Rafael Pavarotti and styled by British Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief Edward Enninful OBE.
Explaining the inspiration behind shooting an all-Black, all African cover, Enninful says, “I saw all these incredible models from across Africa who were just so vivacious and smart. These girls are redefining what it is to be a fashion model.” Enninful goes on to highlight the importance of ensuring this isn’t a transient moment, “We need to ensure these girls last. We have to invest in them, nurture them and support them with editorial, with advertising, with shows.”
Cover star and supermodel Adut Akech recalls the landscape of five years ago as a world away from what we see now:
When I first started modelling internationally, I would literally be the only Black, dark-skinned girl in the show. There were no Sudanese models, no African models. Now, I go to a show and there are girls from my country, girls from Africa who look like me. So yes, there has been a huge change.
The experience of not belonging resonates with Anok Yai, a fellow Sudanese model:
In the beginning, I felt really isolated. I got thrown into the modelling industry very quickly and I kind of had to navigate it on my own. I also have social anxiety, so I struggled a lot with connecting with people. Backstage, there would maybe be one other Black girl, but now my tribe is backstage. I can speak my own language to my friends. They are basically like my family.
Enninful believes the way to ensure that this “moment” isn’t transient, is to ensure the models’ careers go the distance:
It’s sad and heartbreaking for me to see girls who are on the rise suddenly taper off. We need to ensure these girls last. We have to invest in them, nurture them and support them with editorial, with advertising, with shows. It has to be 360.
Alek Wek didn’t suddenly become Alek Wek. There was a group of us behind girls like her, propelling them forward. This is what we have to do in all our different roles. Getting these girls and then throwing them away after one season? That has to stop.
Click here to see the full feature in the February issue of British Vogue.
Set Design: @IbbyNjoya