Fashion has for the longest time been perceived as something foreign and not essentially African. However, the roots of African fashion can be traced back as far as can be remembered. From the vibrant sisal skirts which were an important part of African dances to the Kanga which is now an iconic fashion garment, featured on high fashion runways around the globe; though subtly, fashion has always been a part of the African lifestyle. Recently, the fashion scene in East Africa has seen a surge of growth accompanied by several runway showcases hosted every other day and an equally large number of designers competing on the same level as international designers.
Fashion showcases in East Africa are glamorous events which attract a wide range of fashion enthusiasts from all over Africa. Fashion with a purpose is a recurrent theme for most of these showcases, often hosted to raise funds towards noble causes. Fashion High Tea, Fashion Café and Trendz Kenya Fashion Festival are some of the annual fashion events which have risen in popularity in the East African region. Trendz Kenya Fashion Festival is a relatively new fashion event held in Kenya; having hosted its 3rd edition this year, the event sees fashion designers and models from East Africa and sip ka matlab the rest of Africa come together to showcase their designs.
Fashion is also a big part of the East African pop culture. Select designers have a strong following with celebrities and public personalities. Not only celebrities, but East Africans in general have embraced fashion and they simply want to look good. East African men have also taken to fashion, with a number taking up modeling as a serious career. Designers such as John Kaveke from Kenya and Black Bird Jeans based in Kenya and New York primarily cater to men’s fashion needs.
The Miss World beauty pageant has also contributed towards the growth of fashion in East Africa. The Miss World representatives from East Africa also turn to local designers for dashing outfits to adorn during the grand event.Several fashion-oriented TV shows have also gained popularity in East Africa and at the forefront of these shows are the creative creations of local designers.
Fashion in East Africa has to some extent also crossed over to the political scene. During election campaigns, political aspirants enlist the services of local designers.