For my latest project with Vanichi Magazine, we teamed up with The Africa Channel to ask “What If Movie Icons Wore African Fashion?”
For my latest project with Vanichi Magazine, we teamed up with The Africa Channel to ask “What If Movie Icons Wore African Fashion?” (#WIMIWAF). This creative fashion editorial imagines iconic Hollywood film characters in an alternate reality where they don modern, handcrafted fashion from designers of Africa and the Diaspora. I served as Co-Creative Director alongside Jordan Anthony Swain, who also modeled one of the campaign looks.
Movies can teach us how to dream. They ignite our imaginations. They tap into our deepest humanity. They help us escape. They fire us up. They’re the art of making make-believe feel tangible. That’s why billions of dollars are allotted around the world every year on every continent to bring a story to the screen. Often, we find ourselves drawn to certain characters that become iconic for the things they say, the obstacles they overcome, and even the things they wear.
Some of these films become permanently embedded in culture for their design elements alone. In these cases we see the fashions on the screen inform the runway, too. For instance, a 2013 remake of The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio inspired numerous fashion collections from Banana Republic to Marchesa. The film even won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. That’s just one example of how one movie affected pop culture almost instantaneously.
If movies wield this type of power, it’s not a stretch to say that they can also expand our definitions of what is “mainstream.” The fashions we see on these characters can create trends or have longer resonance, becoming the new classics.
Yet, diversity has been an ongoing problem in Hollywood and affects things both behind and in front of the camera. In some cases, the hierarchy of power structures have kept some cultures from ever being part of the dialogue in the first place, although that culture itself has often been a source of inspiration or a backdrop within the plot structure.
I’ve watched Hollywood movies my entire life. I’ve seen films set in 1940’s Vietnam to 1990’s Congo. Yet, I can’t really recall a main character that is considered “iconic” that dressed in fashions that weren’t designed by European brands or the European Diaspora. So I wanted to ask a different question: What If Movie Icons Wore African Fashion?
The Africa Channel wants to answer this question. As an award-winning network, The Africa Channel showcases the African continent’s most outstanding English language television series, specials, documentaries, feature films, music, biographies and more. Its programming presents a window into the complexity and richness of modern African life, thus demystifying the continent for an American audience.
The Africa Channel and Vanichi partnered to present What If Movie Icons Wore African Fashion? as more than an editorial. #WIMIWAF is a public service announcement to telescope and celebrate the diverse fashion emerging from Africa and its people. Designers featured range from couture to ready to wear labels and clothing to handmade accessories and jewelry. Within these looks, viewers will find exquisite examples of tailoring, beadwork, leathersmithing, metalworking and innovative design that is inherent to the peoples of Africa.
modeled by Chanelle Renee
Styled in: MINKU Custom Necktie + Shimmy Shimmy Bling Bling Aso Oke Pants + Salmon Leather Bucket Bag; OBIOMA Shirt; BADARA Custom Sandals; TEGAA Bracelet
modeled by Celisse Graves
Styled in: AMMANII Necklace + Earrings; OBIOMA Dress; YULL Shoes
modeled by Tia Hurley
Styled in: TEGAA Necklace; AVNAH Swimwear; BURKINABAE Bracelet
modeled by Jaway
Styled in: OBIOMA Shirt; AFRO CUBAN Hat
modeled by Isaiah Lucas
Styled in: STUDIO ONE EIGHT NINE Shirt; OBIOMA Jacket + Vest; AMMANII Necklace; JF LONDON Shoes
modeled by Elijah Allan-Blitz
Styled in: OBIOMA Shirt
modeled by Jordan Anthony Swain
Styled in: KENNETH NICHOLSON Shirt, AMMANII Necklace, BURKINABAE Sunglasses, M ANDREWS Suit Pants
Alongside my co-creative director Jordan Anthony Swain, photographer Juhn Kwon, hair and makeup artist Karen Bates-Ashley and assistant stylist Drea MJ, memorable Hollywood characters were reimagined in modern, handcrafted clothing and accessories from designers of Africa and the Diaspora.
We gathered a vast curation of exciting brands:
Kenneth Nicholson (Los Angeles, California) | kennethnicholson.us
Obioma (Lagos, Nigeria) | myobioma.com
Ammanii (Cairo + Los Angeles, California) | ammanii.com
Tegaa (Gambia + New York) | tegaa.com
M Andrews Sartorial Luxury (San Antonio, Texas) | mandrewsluxury.com
Badara Jewelry (Sierra Leone + Malibu, California) | facebook.com/BadaraFineJewels
Minku (Lagos, Nigeria + Barcelona, Spain) | minku.com
Avnah (Atlanta, Georgia) | avnah.com
Studio One Eighty Nine (Ghana + USA) | studiooneeightynine.com
Burkinabae (Los Angeles, California) | burkinabae.com
Sarayaa (Senegal) | sarayaafashion.com
Stay tuned for more editorial and video features from #WIMIWAF and join the discussion on social media through the hashtag.
Scroll down for credits and special thanks from those who helped make this project possible.
Special Thanks to:
La Maison de Fashions
Sista Asia Wildenboer
and PRB for including: JF London | jflondon.net/it + Yull | yull.co.uk
Creative Directors JORDAN ANTHONY SWAIN
Photographer JUHN KWON
Hair + Makeup KAREN BATES-ASHLEY
Assistant Stylist DREA MJ
Retouching by KONSTANTIN GEORGULIS
Graphic Design by KRUNAL KAWALE
Models JONATHAN STANTON . The Godfather
CELISSE GRAVES . The Seven Year Itch
ELIJAH ALLAN-BLITZ . Rebel Without a Cause
TIA HURLEY . Dr. No
JAWAY . Casablanca
SARA ISHAG . Clueless
ISAIAH LUCAS . Saturday Night Fever
CHANELLE RENEE . Annie Hall
JORDAN ANTHONY SWAIN . The Matrix
ELLE DRANE . Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Editorial Assistants MARA HERRON