By Dagny Zenovia
A rise in recognition for African designers and Black models globally is due to the influence of global fashion trends being more interconnected. China is one of the largest garment exporters in the world. In order to remain ahead of competition and promote cross-border business initiatives, China’s $218 million fashion industry is opening up to fashion designers and models from Africa and Africa’s diaspora.
African fashion experienced tremendous recognition in 2019 in China. Ophelia Crossland, a Ghanaian fashion designer, was the only African designer selected to participate in the 2019 Qipao Invitational Exhibition at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou City, China. The museum is the only institution in the world with a permanent fashion gallery.
There are also African fashion designers based in China who are developing awareness and support for their industry. The Shanghai Black Fashion Week was established in 2017 to provide an opportunity to educate, facilitate, and showcase what African fashion is in China. After its first show in 2018, the organizers have received requests from cities all over China to expand their platform and continue promoting Black culture in China. Their supporters include Africans, Africa’s diaspora, and Chinese.
As more African fashion designs and culture is showcased and supported in China, the face who wears these designs in China is becoming more diverse. Recently, China has started experiencing a rise in demand for Black models. This interest in being more inclusive is due to Chinese fashion brands positioning on a global scale and desire to shift towards a progressive beauty standard. The consumer opinion on this is mixed. Some applaud brands promoting diversity. Others recount that China’s traditional beauty standards are based on, and rightfully so, the people of China. Overall, diverse representation seems to be supported.
Looking forward, there is room for success as cross-border business and cultural initiatives continue to shape China’s fashion industry and open a space for African fashion designers and Black models.