Selling Angelina “Dashiki” Fabrics and Afros – the Politics and Innuendos of Owning our Style

The times they are a-changin’.

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KYEMAH MCENTYRE has launched a fashion capsule collection on Bella Vello, and once you get over the pride of this sisters talent, the joy of her success and opportunity, let’s take a moment to  look deeper into the significance and issues in this “arrangement’

At first, I was simply  glad that there was now an example of  ‘PRE-TAIL” e-commerce that would enable black designers to accept this format more readily. It is not new to  the Pan Afrikan scene, nor is social commerce a new sales phenomena… Mas bands in my native Trinidad sell costumes via “pre-tail”, so too do local dressmakers and bespoke tailors. They also  heavily rely on social relationships to sell, It’s the technology that is new.  -“Pretail” , “pre-tail” , is simply a new term on  the traditional fashion retail and fashion tech scene, that describes deep traditions in teh African sewing culture.

I can see both side of  the discussions. Some will cite this as diversity in action; A brilliant business strategy; progress! Others will cite that there are no black, African alternatives. Still others will point out  the fact that it again puts African style into the hands of others. Does it matter, do the points or arguments matter, more importantly, should we even engage in conversation around this. It is her choice her business, or is it!

The collection is decidedly African Inspired, but, and this is important, Kyemah became famous when her prom outfit went viral.  The significance of a young, African-American  Woman  holding true to her heritage touched a raw nerve within the Black  community. Her Brand is about Heritage and in Particular pride in the symbols of the Black power movement, The  Black fro and the “dashiki”.

However, HERITAGE is more than Angelina “Dashiki” Fabrics and Afros. The Black power movement  as identified by the  Afro was essentially about black ownership and leveraging  black creativity talent and resources to better serve the community! Unfortunately many young people have no idea of the deeper significance.  So they  will raise their fist while sporting extra long blonde weaves.

The question is this the best move for African or Afrikan inspired  fashion. The truth is few young people are aware of the DETAILS of this historic period.  they see only the aesthetic. Few are aware of the socio- economic factors behind it!

It’s a sensitive subject, the conversation around “who owns or should profit  from the Black or rather Pan African fashion sector. ” in general but then checking the history behind the particular  aesthetics of this collection, it becomes even more “complicated’.  So much so that few will publicly debate it. Few that is within the black business community.

The  problem the ongoing complaint that  Asian interest continually exploits the black fashion sector. There is a noted absence on the site as to the identity of its founders. Actually, there is very little info on the site. It is cofounded by Amy Cao (LinkedIn photo inset).  So what’s “wrong” with that ?  She gave this young woman an opportunity few others have. Then again do we dare discuss why  black tech  leaders are few to find, or why are many  in the black fashion scene NOT embracing the new, few with the expertise to answer actually use the social media tools. can we get past petty web noise and have real conversations…

Should diversity not be encouraged!  I’d welcome opinions and thoughts!  Call & Response.

Yes, these are the things my  mind runs over during my day… so I’ll put out the call for your response.

Changing formats-A while back I lost  interest in blogging, well at least blogging the way it’s currently done. At heart, I am about human interaction and conversation. Discussion helps clarify shape and mold opinions. I want those conversations BEFORE my final  post, not after – That means overcoming two factors. First, a growing systematic fear of expressing what may be construed as “negative” or “disagreeable” comments. Second, overcoming what is a more dissected #conversationprism to  bring conversation on one Plateau.




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