If you have paid attention to some of the world’s top lifestyle magazines lately, you might have noticed the recurring appearance of bold, colourful, intricately patterned cloth called “African wax prints”. Wax has been a wardrobe staple in Africa since the early 20th century, but in recent years it’s being increasingly embraced by the mainstream in the West.
From Europe to America, wax used to be a strictly fashion affair confined to diaspora fashion designers and low-profile exotic themed events. Now it forms collections of global luxury fashion houses, expands to accessories, handbags, interior design, and travel gear; and stars in TV shows and large-scale tradeshows. Wax is embarking on a new journey in the spotlight, bringing opportunities at the intersection of design, business, and fashion.
But Western consumers regularly see trends come and go: can wax become more of a lasting thing? How can Africa-based/-inspired fashion industry from manufacturers to designers to entrepreneurs, capitalize on the momentum and create serious business with the mainstream? Beyond fashion, how can African products and brands crack international markets?
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