The Folklore Is Bringing Africa’s Best Designers To The U.S.

In Black culture, folklore remains an essential mode of passing down stories, customs, and beliefs from generation to generation. The Folklore, Amira Rasool's new cultural hub for contemporary brands, artists, and creatives, aims to tell the stories of designers from the African diaspora through their own lens. "No one is really documenting these designers now as they should, allowing them to document their own journeys," Rasool tells Refinery29. "I really just want them to able to tell their own stories without being pigeonholed into this mold of ‘this is African design.’"
Rasool came up with the concept for The Folklore when she was the fashion coordinator at V magazine, where she realized she didn't like working for other people and longed to combine her love of shopping and storytelling. So she applied to an African Studies masters program at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and used her time there to do on-the-ground scouting. "That’s when I discovered all of these cool designers and started working on the site," she continues.
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Rasool launched The Folklore with 19 designers and 115 styles. Now she carries 22 from cult swimwear label Andrea Iyamah, Black Panther cast fave MaXhosa, and Adebayo Oke-Lawal’s Orange Culture. The latter has been nominated for both the LVMH Prize and the International Woolmark Prize.
"I have yet to see a designer who has accomplished so much in such a short period of time and not be in one of those major retailers,” Rasool told Vogue of Oke-Lawal. "I think that’s just people neglecting the continent and just making assumptions instead of actually checking out what’s going on."
She will edit the offering seasonally, and hopes that her platform will serve as a signal boost for the designers. To get the products into even more hands, she'll also host pop-up events for consumers. "A lot of these designers aren’t sold in the U.S. or in the West in general," she explains. "Because we have a pretty high price point, people are going to want to be able to touch and feel and get a sense of these brands and the quality of their clothing."
Rasool hosted a successful pop-up in New York during Fashion Week, and plans to host one in LA this month, and another in Brooklyn come December. "Pop-up shops are going to be something that drives the business as we try to attract online sales," she says. She hopes people will support these designers in the same manner they do other luxury designers, and eventually, the brands she's working with will be stocked in Barneys New York or Saks Fifth Avenue. "I'm just excited to help them tell their stories."
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