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A look back and forwards at Fashion Cities Africa

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How on earth have we hit October already? It feels like only a few days ago that hundreds of us were crammed into every nook and cranny of Brighton Museum to celebrate the grand opening of Fashion Cities Africa on Friday 29 April; but apparently that was five months ago now!

Collection of gallery selfies taken at Fashion Cities AfricaSince that applause and bubbly-soaked evening, so much brilliant stuff has happened; both for Fashion Cities Africa and for myself, the voice behind our social media activity for the exhibition. At the end of May, South African fashion legend and brain behind the Leopard Frock label, Marianne Fassler, jetted all the way from Johannesburg to see Fashion Cities Africa in the flesh and host a public discussion about her experiences in designing and mentoring.

In June we were joined in Brighton by stylist, fashion consultant and key member of Nairobi’s creative powerhouse The Nest Collective, Sunny Dolat, and designers Katungulu Mwendwa and Kepha Maina; who worked together to host a relaxed evening in our fairly new Museum Lab space, chatting about their experiences of Nairobi’s diverse fashion landscape over wine and nibbles.

2ManySiblings at Fashion Cities AfricaAlso representing Nairobi later on in June came Kenya’s best-known style blogging pair, 2manysiblings. The brother-sister duo, also known as Velma and Papa, hosted their very first UK Thrift Social at the museum: a well-attended party which saw a thrift sale, dancing, drinking, eating, clothes swapping, up-cycling, fabric printing and live music into the night. A few days later, the siblings then appeared once more at the museum to chat with Hannah Pool, Helen Mears and a public audience (one of whom was my little sister, who loved her first museum event!), about their forays in art, blogging, fashion and style.

Pride weekend was celebrated with a Friday night private view of Fashion Cities Africa and a screening of Stories of Our Lives, a controversial Nest Collective film characterising the queer experience in Kenya, a country where LGBTQ rights are still very few and far between.

A fairly quiet stretch for Fashion Cities Africa then ensued, with myself and my colleagues utilising this time to pack our bags and head off on a few lovely holidays (sigh – where has that summer gone?)

A solid month of festival-attending, ray-catching and cocktail-sipping down the line and here I am, realising it’s probably time to get my serious on and get back down to business again. This week I started at the University of Sussex, with three years of studying for a degree in English Language & Linguistics ahead of me. So far so good, as far as first impressions go, and I’m really looking forward to finding out what the next few years have in store (besides a student bus pass, discounted clothes and ridiculously cheap weekday nights out). Unfortunately this lifestyle change will mean I’m no longer spending as much time in the museum as I once did – though there’s still a long while yet until Fashion Cities Africa is over and I’ll be continuing to stick my nose in given any opportunity!

We were recently joined by ground-breaking Johannesburg creative collective The Sartists, who’ll be discussing their explorations into fashion and style in a post-apartheid South Africa. As a bit of a fan of theirs, I wassuper excited to meet them! The end of October will then boast the Africa Arts Festival, a weekend celebration of African fashion, film, food, music and literature in and around Brighton Museum. This weekend will offer up all sorts of fun and games, from a creative writing workshop to various Q&As and talks featuring Hannah Pool to screenings of short films such as The Importance of Being Elegant.

So, as the long, lazy summer days draw to a close and we prepare ourselves for months of dark mornings and cold hands, we can also look forward to a fresh chapter, filled with new opportunities and exciting plans.

Thank you as ever for reading, guys and gals. I hope your autumn gets off to a wonderful start and that we see some of your faces at our Fashion Cities Africa events over the next few months!

Ruby McGonigle (Front of House staff member at the Royal Pavilion & Museums)