Since he attended his first Fashion Week in Johannesburg in 2009, Capetown-based photographer Per-Anders Pettersson has photographed more than forty fashion weeks in fifteen countries in Africa. His book African Catwalk, published recently by Kehrer Verlag, collects images he made of the vibrant young fashion scene, at Kigali Fashion Week in Rwanda, Lagos Fashion & Design Week in Nigeria, Senegal’s Dakar Fashion Week and Swahili Fashion Week in Tanzania, among many others.
Pettersson’s book corresponds to an important moment for African fashion, as the industry has come into its own along with a growing middle class. More than just thriving, African fashion designers are pictured as they develop a voice free of the “curio aesthetic” and “its often exaggerated use of beading and animal prints” that often accompany Western ideas of African fashion, Allana Finley writes in one of the book’s several essays. Instead, the world Pettersson shows is deeply creative, and his pictures embody “the disruption and disorder inherent to African fashion,” she writes. Whether showing fashion shoots on location in Gaborone before Color in the Desert Fashion Week, or a look-book shoot for a Kenyan designer in Nairobi, Petterson’s images evoke a world of driven by passion and resourcefulness. As Simone Cipriani writes in his essay, “African fashion tells the story of society: its positivity, creativity and capacity to do a great deal with scarce resources. This is the connecting point for most of the innovation that comes from Africa. Making do with less, getting the most out of what is available. Isn’t it something the rest of the world must learn to master if humankind wants to survive on this planet?”