WGSN Unveils 2017-2018 Key African Trends in Decor, Design, Fashion and Culture

The global trend authority in fashion and creative industries, WGSN, presented its first major press event in Cape Town. They partnered with some of Africa’s leading creatives, designers and up-and coming trailblazers. WGSN’s Chief Content Officer, Carla Buzasi presented 4 key African trends in the forefront of African design for 2017 and 2018.

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Photographers and creatives Trevor Stuurman, Ed Suter, Gabrielle Kannemeyer and Travys Owen and fashion designers Chu Suwannapha and Nicholas Coutts and Cleo Droomer contributed in putting the trends together.

‘The African retail value chain has been significantly disrupted over the past few years and retailers and suppliers need to have a clear point of differentiation and confidence in their design execution,’ says Hannari Slabbert, WGSN regional director for Africa. ‘Added to that is a complex consumer mix who are increasingly influenced by international media and expect a contemporary offering in-store.’

In order to further expand their trend content across Africa in 2017, WGSN will feature reports covering:

  •  African trends in womenswear, colour, materials, accessories and beauty
  • Consumer insights, influencers, lifestyle & interiors, and menswear trends in South, East and Western Africa

The Key African Trends in Decor, Design, Fashion and Culture:

The event uncovered 4 key African trends identified in Decor, Design, Fashion and Culture for 2017 and 2018.


Winter always brings with it a darker mood and sense of melancholy. WGSN calls the 2017 winter season that of “bittersweet beauty” with a blurring of the boundaries between night and day. This particular trend will extend into autumn/winter 2018. To illustrate how this will play out, WGSN chose Cape Town label Droomer alongside H&M’s 2017 Conscious Exclusive collection.

Droomer’s loungewear suit and oversized gold sports-inspired garments give an unexpectedly understated cold-weather sense of luxury. To show that fashion can be sustainable and sensual,  the event had a model decked in H&M’s black organic silk suit teamed with fitted trousers with flamenco-inspired frills on the legs with a fluid draped jacket.

We must admit that disruption and discomfort are central to this trend, which embraces the darkness that comes before light. Xandre Kriel’s Samosa Table and Night Chair/Nagstoel from the Southern Guild translated this blurring of night and day into décor.

An artwork by photographer Krisjan Rossouw provided an equally opulent backdrop as did a video loop of bright New York nights and the bustling streets of Cape Town set to Max Richter’s gentle music to bring home the juxtaposition.

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Together with an ever-increasing tendency to turn to screens for everything, our instincts are kicking in and prompting an urge to reconnect with nature. This will play out in a variety of micro- and macroscopic designs and a preference for colours that can ground us.

Most notably this trend encompasses the intense colours of the skies just before dawn or dusk as well as gold ochre, saffron, blue flame and dark berry.

“As the name ‘Earthed’ suggests, there is a strong link to the farm-to-table movement that now extends to fitting rooms too as fashion becomes increasingly ‘home-grown’ and incorporates more and more local materials,” says Carla Buzasi. This mood was made tangible by an installation by Kraak that allowed guests to feel the soil beneath their feet in addition to the natural bacteria and yeast used in Slippery Spoon’s laboratory installation.

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Youth Tonic

Come summer and renewed youthful vigour always sets in. Summer 2018 will remind us that youth is a state of mind.  As the world population ages and Gen Z, Gen X and Boomers live longer than previous generations; we will see eras blending in new ways. Different generations will break the rules of what applies to them and remix styles and lifestyles. It’s about the random, about striking out and finding what fits you. That’s already happening!

Everyone wants to be forever young. We will learn to embrace the random and the unfinished, reaching out to untapped areas of influence. We will be exploring beyond social-media feeds as discovery becomes the new exclusivity in spring/summer 2018.

Electric colours and neon pops are matched and clashed but beneath the surface zing there are complementary tones such as blues that work in harmony with their poppy counterparts.  An installation of fake flowers and kitsch furnishings brought the trend into the home by embracing the unfinished and random to emphasise that art is the new fashion.

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WGSN believes that Kinship overlaps with all three of the previous trends. It is characterised by an increased sense of community where art and design crosses borders around the globe. Just like the disappearing generation gap, cultures and histories will meld as people continue to move around the world, whether physically or virtually.

Kinship is about cultures and collectives that forge an increased sense of community. The curves of the East will increasingly enhance the lines of the West. Storytelling will play an ever more important role in connecting people around products and projects through vivid tales of places, histories and cultures.

The works of photographers Trevor Stuurman, Ed Suter, Travys Owen and Gabrielle Kannemeyer brought this concept home by placing strongly traditional elements such as Basutho blankets and ochre-covered Himba in non-cultural settings.

Three fashion designers who are known for spanning cultures showed how they interpret this trend, Chu Suwannapha of Chulaap who has been celebrating the prints and colours of Africa since the label’s inception, mille collines who straddles Africa with contemporary, cosmopolitan fashions made in Africa for African women, and Nicholas Coutts, who combines fabrics such as South African mohair and acid denim to take menswear in a welcome new direction.

“The end result is an upbeat palette that goes easy on the darks. Earthy reds ranging from Red Mulberry and Dark Orchid to more traditional summery hues like Baked Coral and Rose Madder are a defining feature. Dark Ginger and Golden Spice lend intensity to the palette, while Blue Sage, Washed Indigo and Horizon Blue offer a calming balance,” says Carla Buzasi.

As Carla Buzasi said, “Craft is a key influence in décor but it isn’t about a folksy take on interiors. Instead we will see a blending of textiles and design that shows an appreciation of global culture.”

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Credit: Jenna McArthur PR

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