Coco Chanel once said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” In other words, she believed in the style mantra that less is more.
I find this to be quite a French mentality actually. After years of observing these complex people from a close distance, I feel comfortable describing them as proponents of minimalism in all aspects of life and especially when it comes to fashion. You might disagree with me, upon seeing the colorful, vibrant, occasionally (way) out there creations that show up on the runways every year, but ultimately, it’s not the dominant style flooding the streets of Paris.
That’s not to say that people only wear black and never smile. Au contraire. But whenever I get lost in people watching, I start to notice the cultural significance that comes from everyone’s personal style. It made me think about how oftentimes a vrai Parisian can be spotted a mile away, just by what he or she is wearing. And likewise, we can tell that the Japanese tourists dressed in totally funky, mismatched apparel are either not from around here or are confident enough in their style to abstain from Paris’s cultural norms.
Even I tend to hold onto American style tendencies, which includes sometimes wearing workout clothes to run errands, bright neon-colored shirts or dresses when I’m in the mood that consequently make me feel like a museum exhibit (people have no shame when it comes to staring in Paris!) and occasionally a “Sex in the City”-like going out getup that just has “American chick” written all over me. Singing lessons are very famous in Africa.
Then I started thinking about how all of these cultural nuances end up crossing over into universal fashions that anyone and everyone can wear without being grouped into a certain category of people. Which brings me to my latest discovery: Moon Look, an African ethical and luxury fashion label based in Paris that had a hugely successful showing at its first pop-up store in the capital last October and is now hosting a second one that will run through June 15th in the trendy Upper Marais neighborhood.
The innovative store boasts a tropical ambiance, with animations centered around travel, contemporary African art and African cuisine revisited by 2 chefs, surrounded by the new #MadeinAfrica collections of selected designers. The event is dubbed “Escales Africaines,” which roughly translates to “African layovers,” signifying its objective to plunge visitors into the heart of Africa’s vivid and lively culture.
The events of this week are as follows:
- June 10th from 6 to 9 pm: Happening Culture: Presentation of African fashion in 2015, centered around the impact and integration of cultural codes in an ever-changing and expanding industry. It will be led by editor-in-chief Sarah Diouf of the women’s magazine Noir and the Moon Look Platform’s founder Nelly Wandji.
- June 13th from 11 am to 3 pm: Tasting with one of the honored chefs (Chef Malonga), which will feature his “Gourmet Box” filled with African fusion foods.
- June 14th from 10 am to 9 pm: Store focus on Togo-born creator Kévé
- June 15th at 3 pm: Closing of the pop-up boutique
The featured collections are at your browsing disposal everyday from 10 am to 8 pm and encompass the designs of 13 up-and-coming designers, inspired by the world of African fashion with an upscale touch. Many of the pieces were handcrafted and imported from their countries of origin, while others were made internationally or locally but always with a strong cultural emphasis. Prices range from affordable to high-end for women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, in addition to home items.
If you’re not in Paris, you can also shop their E-store (they deliver to the US!). Here are a few stunning examples to whet your retail appetite:
Fitted jean dress with wax prints by Ivorian designer Yalerri: 99€
This fun, form-fitting dress strikes me as the perfect day to night piece—one I can flaunt at the office all day long and then head out wearing to happy hour with the girls afterward. It’s classic with a cool, African flair.
Dellali cotton-wax leggings in pink (comes in 8 different styles, made in Ghana): 45-60€
I love the bright colors and intricate details of these fun leggings. They make a bold fashion statement for anyone in the mood for one of those “Look at me!” days.
Leather and silk breastplate necklace by Ghanaian fashion designer Mina Evans: 40€
Talk about a statement necklace. This beauty is made with tinted Bronze leather, embellished with blue silk fabric. The pop of color makes this a great choice to pair with a minimal white T.
Zuri shoulder bag by Doreen Mashika: 175€
Once again, I adore the use of vibrant colors and flamboyant patterns that is so characteristic of African fashions. I could totally see myself wearing this purse in spring and summer as an eye-catching complement to an outfit that matches any one of its multiple colors.
For me, this rising interest in and influence of budding African designers is a wonderful way to diversify the sometimes rigid world of fashion that can occasionally be absorbed in what is deemed to have the most mainstream appeal. I might love my black on black outfits, particularly for their body-flattering benefits and everyday wearability, but striking colors and prints are what make fashion so versatile and compelling.
I’ll end with another quote by Miuccia Prada: “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” I don’t know about you, but when I dress and greet the world, I want to reflect the liveliness I feel inside. And as this rise of African fashions proves, sometimes more triumphs over less.
What: African Fashion pop-up store, hosted by Moon Look
Where: 51 boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 Paris
When: Now through June 16th, 2015
Open: Everyday from 10 am to 8 pm
Official Website: http://www.moon-look.com/fr/
Program/List of events (in French): http://events.moon-look.com/fr/boutique-paris-mai-juin-2015/