African fashion is experiencing a period of rebirth and African designers are finally winning the place they deserve on the international scene. Nataal was born as an online magazine with the aim of giving light and above all a voice to a new generation of creative talents from Africa and its diaspora, which is re-appropriating its cultural roots to offer a different image of the continent, far from representations shaped by Western and colonial canons.
A new wave of dynamism and creativity, therefore, completely “Made in Africa” and not only inspired by it. From Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Missoni, the colors and patterns of African cultures have long been a source of inspiration. Today, however, the contents of fashion, music, art and contemporary society of the continent are defined by Nigerian, Kenyan and Moroccan artists who, leveraging their rich cultural, historical and textile heritage, are contributing to the creation of a different narrative of Africa. away from global stereotypes. It is a new language, which speaks of creativity and innovation, inclusiveness and Afrocentrism.
Nataal is a project born in 2015 from an idea of the Senegalese actor and model Sy Alassane, together with Sara Hemming, the then Creative Director of AnOther Magazine, and Helen Jennings, director of the African culture and fashion magazine Arise. They worked together in 2013 on the Diesel + Edun campaign and between the three an understanding was immediately born, fueled by a common vision: to create a space, an editorial project, where they can show and enhance the incredible pool of creative talent of a community that is still dramatically marginalized. An ambitious project that fills a necessary niche and that by now has a reach global: from New York to Cape Town via London and Marrakech, the community of Nataal continues to grow and its stories to have more and more resonance.
Nataal uses artists, storytellers and tastemakers to create online content aimed at telling stories with a multidisciplinary and intercultural approach. Not only fashion, therefore, but also visual arts, music, and a space dedicated to some of the most pressing social issues of Africa and its diaspora. From Afrofuturism as an ideology capable of leading African communities to a cultural and technological renaissance, to the need to create new post-colonial cultural identities, to new forms of representation. In the From Brazil series , With Love And Optic Games, for example, young photographer Rafa Kennedy documents the Afro-Brazilian queer and travesty community . With Versage, Allyn Gaestel investigates counterfeit fashion culture, the concept of cheapness and systems of global inequality. In particular on how pirate brands such as Versage have taken up space in Nigeria, passing through the Chinese factories in Guangzhou.
Nataal is not just a magazine. The platform also has a rich “live” programming that includes concerts, talks and photographic exhibitions in various cities around the world, from New York to Lagos and London. In 2016 Nataal launches New African Photography, a series of exhibitions co-curated with Brooklyn’s Red Hook Labs, whose third edition – all female – exhibited works by photographers such as South African Alice Mann and Nigerian Ruth Ossai in New York and then at Somerset House in London and Ronan McKenzie, the Anglo-Ghanaian photographer and founder of the Selasi brand. In 2018 the decision to create an annual print magazine: three hundred and fifty pages of photography in which well-known names are joined by emerging talents to guarantee a mix of perspectives and promote a spirit of collaboration and inclusiveness.
Over the years, Nataal has also become a media partner of some of the events on the global cultural scene: from the AfroPunk Festival to the African art fair 1-54 in London, to the Design Indaba in Cape Town and the AKAA in Paris. And then the news a few days ago, the partnership with FarFetch to offer an even broader platform to fashion designers, stylists and photographers from the black community. A project that is part of the British retailer’s ambitious new ten-year plan – “Positively Farfetch” – inspired by the principles of environmental sustainability, inclusiveness and diversity. In conjunction with Black History Month – the annual American anniversary that celebrates the people and events of the African diaspora – Nataal and Farfetch asked visual artists, musicians and stylists to interpret the Black style.
Nataal is a project that is as beautiful as it is urgent. According to a report by the African Development Bank, the clothing and footwear market in Sub-Saharan Africa is worth $ 31 billion. Yet the continent’s ten largest textile and clothing exporters occupy a market share of only 0.5% of global textile production. Nataal owes its success to its recognized ability to convey a strong message – the enhancement of a community marginalized by the global fashion market – through original content, with a strong visual impact and great artistic value.