Africa in the Global Fashion Industry: Beyond masks, safari coats, and romance

Wendy Potter, Family/Consumer Science, David Butler High School

Final Unit(pdf)   Implementing Teaching Standards(pdf)


In the past decade, globalization has been a topic of discussion in the textile and fashion sector. But globalization is not a new idea. The global economy has been in the works for centuries. This curriculum unit places an emphasis on Africa’s place in fashion history, which is often left out of typical fashion history lessons. Students will study Africa’s history, including colonialism, regional textile history, and global relations with European countries such as France, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. At a time of industrialization for many countries, the continent of Africa was seen as a substantial resource for the growing economy of various countries, resulting in the “scramble for Africa.” Although Africa offered essential commodities for industrialization around the globe, its status as a source of inspiration is often missed when studying fashion history. Artifacts from Africa during its exploration and colonial expositions gave birth to various art genres such as modernism, cubism, and exoticism, all of which inspired fashion designers of the time. Teaching strategies used include hands-on design projects, group discussions, literacy, and work-based projects.