I’ve followed and admired the popular trailblazing blog African Prints in Fashion (APiF) since realising that my desire to wear more contemporary African-inspired fashion was shared with women around the world. What APiF continues to do all these years later is bring together people from all over the world seeking information, inspiration and validation, whether that’s based on an emotional or purely aesthetic love of African prints and culture.
But APiF doesn’t stop there. The founder behind the brand, who goes by the pseudonym MsK, promotes designers, brands and other players who are bringing contemporary African fashion and design to the world. I’ve spoken to MsK several times since launching Sapelle, exploring ways in which brands can work together for more market impact. The more we’ve spoken, the more I’m intrigued about what drives this New York-based German-Ghanaian Marketing professional, and what motivated her to create a fantastic platform that continues to give its followers quality content.
I had the privilege of posing these and other questions to MsK. Starting from the beginning, I asked MsK how her experiences growing up with two different cultural influences informed her identity as a child and young adult. Here’s what she had to say:
“I think initially I just wanted to fit in and considered myself German when I was younger, which wasn’t really that easy.”
“My dad is from Ghana and my mom is from Germany. I was born in Heidelberg, Germany and grew-up in a super small village in South Germany. My dad used to tell us, ‘us’ being me, my twin sister and my brother, African folktales as bedtime stories so Anansi was an ever present character and he sometimes cooked peanut butter soup and we had our hair braided when one of our aunts visited.
“But I think that was it regarding ‘African’ cultural influences. Looking back I think initially I just wanted to fit in and considered myself German when I was younger, which wasn’t really that easy as being Black and German was not an existing concept when I was a kid.
“I consider myself Afro-German, Ghanaian-German, Afropolitan, Black, Brooklynite.”
“The first time I went to Ghana I was 18, so that was quite late. Going earlier would have probably helped with the whole identification process. Visiting Ghana definitely made me proud of my heritage and helped in my initiation process. It also gave me a completely different picture of ‘Africa’.
“Despite growing up with an African father, the media and the world around me had influenced my perception of what the African continent is or isn’t quite a bit. In college I connected with the Black Community in Germany and started to identify as Afro-German – that’s still a terminology I use and like. Today I consider myself Afro-German, Ghanaian-German, Afropolitan, Black, Brooklynite. I think once you found yourself and know who your are, the terminology gets less important.”
“She said. ‘thanks for creating these!’…things like that keep me motivated.”
“I realized I really couldn’t name any African designers and I knew there must be some out there. And thus I started APiF. There were actually many platforms and blogs before me that focused on that topic. They used to be my role models and inspiration. What differentiates me from them is that I am still here because I am very consistent.
My old boss at work once described me as a pit bull: when I bite, I don’t like to let go. APIF has become my passion – it inspires and fulfills me to keep on blogging, researching, sharing and observing the development and uprise of African Fashion.
“It’s funny when I say, ‘I blog about fashion’ people get excited and want to know more. When I specify that my topic is African Fashion their interest sometimes wavers because they think, ‘oh not relevant for me, too niche’. And then there are of course people who are super interested in the topic overall. I recently ran into a young woman at a bus stop in Brooklyn who recognized my African City Bag and said. ‘thanks for creating these!’. That was a great feeling, things like that keep me motivated.”
“The social media movement has helped to give more visibility to African Fashion.”
Having a finger on the pulse of people’s sentiments towards African fashion, MsK spoke about how factors like the natural Afro hair movement and contemporary African music coming into the mainstream may have influenced or been influenced by the public view of African inspired fashion.
“If you talk about people who don’t follow Fashion Weeks or recent developments, I don’t think people’s views in general have changed. The mainstream Africa-inspired fashion focuses on Ankara/Wax fabrics – so now you can buy Africa-inspired clothing at Zara, Forever21 or H&M.
“Most people still associate African Fashion with low quality or cheap clothing, which is not applicable to the creative, high-end designs by African designers that use, for example hand-dyed, woven fabrics, digital prints etc. and not fabrics made in the Far East. However I definitely think that the whole social media movement has helped to give more visibility to African Fashion and African Designers.”
“African designers and the African Fashion industry are injecting new creativity.”
MsK studied English, German and Politics and then proceeded to do Journalism training after College. She’s currently working as Marketing Director for an IT company. She confirms that her love for writing combined with the experience she’s gained in marketing has definitely helped in growing the blog and in building the APiF brand. I took the ooprtunity ask her to don her Marketing hat and asked what African fashion has going for it, and what hinders its progress. Here’s what she thinks:
“Fashion can be very repetitive. So African designers and the African Fashion industry are injecting new creativity and perspectives. That’s definitely a strength. Another strength is that many designers want to give back and have an interest in producing sustainable and ethically on the continent.
“An obstacle is still availability and accessibility. If you need to fly to Lagos or Cape Town in order to buy a clothing item you want, that is of course not marketable for a wide audience. So supply chain is still a challenging topic. And in general branding fashion Made in Africa as quality & high-end, fashion forward items – many people still associate African Fashion with fair trade, relatively cheap and “granola” clothing.”
Asked for a final word, and perhaps a 5-year plan for AFiP, this is what MsK had to say:
“I have a high-level idea but no fixed 5 year plan for APiF. Regarding future goals I keep it with the song from Jesse Boykins ‘tell me where you going when you get there’ – so I promise, I will do just that!”
Check out African Prints in Fashion here.