A few weeks back I posted an image which said: “Old Africa is Luxury”; it peaked a lot of interest, questions, and comments. I decided to repost the image and add some insight into the inspiration behind the graphic through this blog post. The graphic is a representation of my experience living in Africa for the past eleven years and a reflection of my growing appreciation for my African ancestry as a black woman.
The Source of the Disconnect
Growing up in the mid-Atlantic, I can not recall one positive image or reference of Africa, EVER. Even into my adulthood, my only references of Africa were Save the Children commercials that left me with a sense of sadness, desperation, and hopelessness. I have always been aware of my melanin, especially since I’m the darkest person in my family, but I never had an affinity towards Africa.
The Big Move
Fast forward to 2007, I entered into what I thought was my dream life. Living in New York, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Fashion Institute of Technology and I was super excited about a promising future in the luxury industry. My plan was to learn the ropes at a big brand and then start my own African American luxury brand that celebrated the brown and black communities who were typically underserved in the luxe environment. That all changed when my husband decided he wanted to move back home to Africa.
Moving from New York City to South Sudan was just as you can imagine, a challenge.
Old Africa is the Source
Nearly eleven years later, what I learned on this journey is that Africa has always been the source of all things beautiful, natural, sustainable, inspirational, excellently-crafted, and full of heritage. Though growing up, I would have never connected the dots between Africa and luxury, her heritage and resources are the key ingredients that the luxury industry is founded upon.
When I think about how disconnected I was about the truth of Africa, I’m reminded of a story that I was taught as a child in elementary school. This story was about a man named Christopher Columbus who in 1492 discovered America, even though there were people already living there. Just as people are discovering that “Africa is On the Rise” or trendy. I say it’s always been that way. This is not a new phenomenon.
From minerals that power all technology, to raw ingredients like Shea that make sure black don’t crack, to communities of people who are so rich in culture and tradition, this is a true luxury.
Save the Children, Revisited
Going back to those Save the Children commercials, could there have been one commercial that demonstrated the radiance of Nairobi, the energy of Lagos, or the breathtaking beauty of Cape Town? I get it, these organizations are built on donor funds so as long as Africa is painted as a place full of sorrow they will be able to keep the lights on, buy first class tickets for their executives, and they can continue to build their high walls that separate the expats from the locals that they are meant to serve.
But what a cost, how great an expense to a community of people who have been so disconnected with the true beauty of where they come from. This disconnect is the fuel for our brand. It is our obsession to see communities of color celebrated and represented at the highest level: the luxury industry. Our aim is to design African-inspired accessories to pay homage to our ancestry so that we as a community can appreciate the beauty of where we come from. We offer African Luxury as a day to day reminder of where we come from and the shoulders that we stand on.
My message to Africans, African Americans, and people of color: we may not always see ourselves positively represented in the media, our stories don’t always get the light they deserve, our awesomeness is not always appreciated, but where we come from is the ultimate luxury, the highest of quality, the origin, and the source. So walk a bit lighter and hold your head up high because Old Africa is Luxury.
Follow our journey: @APRELLEDUANY