Afrofuturism as a Strategy for Decolonizing the Global Fashion Archive

by Sonja Eismann


Western fashion — which is often posed as universal — draws “inspiration” (though some might call it appropriation) from historical as well as global sources. It follows a colonialist, hegemonic logic of exploitation that pits us against the others, ending in the well-known capitalist scenario in which the winner takes it all. In thinking about decolonizing imaginaries of the fashion world, three areas of thought have led me to investigate the possibility of what might be called the decolonization of the fashion archive: the transgression of borders, the concept of time, and, most importantly, the idea of the archive. Decolonizing the fashion archive — an imaginary archive understood here in the Foucauldian sense as the sum of conceptual and material evidence of historical as well as contemporary articulations selected to qualify as “fashion” — could be a way to find a valid answer to fashion narratives centered exclusively on Western (colonial) discourses.

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