Post by Fab 5 Freddy
African print fabrics are perhaps the most recognized cloth associated with Africa. It is interesting however that these fabrics originated as Dutch wax prints in the 1800’s, but were embraced and claimed by West Africans and have become ubiquitous across the continent from the 19th century through today.
Back in June 2015 a young African American girl who had been bullied at New Jersey’s Cecily Tyson School of The Performing Arts decided to embrace her own creativity and individuality by designing herself a spectacular gown for her prom made from stunning African print fabric. The Instagram image of the 17 year-old Kyemah McEntyre in her fabulous prom gown went viral and one of the quotes included with her post said, “This is for always being labeled as, “ugly” or “angry.” Thank God, stereotypes are just opinions.”
Other quotes from some of her posts include:
“Throughout the world, we have people who do not notice each others essence and humanity. We stunt our collective spiritual growth by allowing assumptions and stereotypes to cloud our mind and thus our physical reality. We let these negative ideas get the best of us, and in turn a world of isolation is manifested by our lack of sensitivity and desire to sympathize with each other.”
“The most creative people are the ones who step out of their comfort zone and take advantage of the world around them … I believe that in order for society to gain a wider horizon, we have to be willing to acknowledge other people from differences, beliefs, morals, and values.”
“ I would like to take this moment to say that you have to understand who you are because if you leave that space open, you leave your identity in the hands of society. Don’t let anyone define you. Beautiful things happen when you take pride in yourself.”
Kyemah has become a grass roots fashion sensation inspiring numerous others to follow her stylish lead in this years prom season as you can see in the photos below and even getting called on to design for celebs on the red carpet. Below you’ll see photos of her receiving accolades from fashion icon Tyra Banks who interviewed her on her FABlife talk show, as well as the dress she designed for singer/actress Naturi Naughton at a recent BET Awards. And by the way, Keymah McEntyre was indeed crowned prom queen.
Other high schoolers inspired by Kyemah McEntyre in African print gowns and outfits where the guys coordinate with their dates (images below).
I learned a long time ago as a youngster figuring out my own sense of style while under the relentless pressure of billions of designer brand advertising dollars that fashion always follows style, and never the other way around. Yes, this was a huge revelation for me. Style doesn’t mean a designers label, but the kind of confidence Kyemah McEntyre felt and demonstrated when she decided to be different and boldly make herself a gown out of African fabric.
Now, one of fashions biggest names renowned for putting bright red on the bottom of women’s high heeled shoes, Christian Louboutin is creating a line of bags in Senegal using bold African fabrics. Additional links here and here.