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Ruby: My Fashion Cities Africa journey so far…

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An update from me, Ruby McGonigle, on my experience so far as the person behind Fashion Cities Africa’s social media accounts.

So, it’s been six months now since I joined the Fashion Cities Africa team (I can’t quite believe it – time really does fly One of many vibrant clothes stalls at Africa Utopia's marketplace, sporting almost every print and colour imaginable!when you’re having fun!) and I feel that now is a good time to reflect on my experience so far. My journey as part of the UK’s first major exhibition about contemporary African fashion kicked off last summer with a handful of really big, really important team meetings, wherein A LOT of brainstorming and scribbled notes took place. In these meetings I was lucky enough to meet some extremely skilful and knowledgeable members of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery staff, who I have since watch work their socks off to ensure that Fashion Cities Africa is the best it can possibly be. I was also introduced to Helen Jennings, Hannah Pool and Lulu Kitololo, all of whom are equally as talented and accomplished as one another in their fields of work (and who, I am not ashamed to admit, I am still ever so slightly star-struck by!) Following these introductory months, I was present for a visit from a group of international students participating in an intense training course at the British Museum and was jammy enough to be sent up to London for a day at Africa Utopia at the Southbank Centre. As far as first impressions go, it didn’t take long for me to get a very good feeling about what the next seven months in store…

The first step on my journey was really seeing to all of the important technical bits and bobs. I was introduced to our Fashion Africa RubyTumblr account, given a mini masterclass on posting to our Brighton Museums blog and even helped to set up a Brighton Museums Instagram account. Before long it really felt as though the ball had gained some good rolling momentum and watching our social media follower counts grow soon became one of my favourite parts of being involved in Fashion Cities Africa. Since then, I have written a blog and Tumblr post in celebration of Kids in Museums Takeover Day, worked alongside our World Art team by regularly sharing their Tumblr posts to our Fashion Africa page and created some social media posts to commemorate the anniversary of the Moroccan Independence Manifesto in celebration of the Moroccan individuals involved in Fashion Cities Africa.

The following months saw me welcomed into the deepest inner workings of Brighton Museum, giving me a real feel for what it’s like to be behind the scenes. Since Batakari GownSeptember, I have taken a trip out to the Royal Pavilion & Museums’ vast artefact store on the outskirts of town with Keeper of World Art Helen Mears, interviewed Curator of Fashion & Textiles Martin Pel down in the museum’s goodie-packed costume store, delved through the museum’s basement in search of some furniture that could potentially be used in the exhibition gallery and sat in on countless juicy meetings.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to be around when the Fashion Cities Africa team has been visited by some really interesting and accomplished individuals. When Mimi Selemela flew over from South Africa to deliver all of the fabulous clothing that is going to feature in the Johannesburg sector of the exhibition, I grabbed an hour with her to chat to her about all sorts from her views on how post-apartheid politics have influenced fashion in South Africa, to her own fashion label, Designs by Music, to New York’s AFROPUNK festival – and of course, to snap a few compulsory selfies! I also met London-based designer Yinka Ilori when he popped down to Brighton to discuss with us the potential of up-cycling some of our battered old chairs to create some magnificent Nigerian parable-inspired seats to be used in the Fashion Cities Africa exhibition gallery. There has been no end to the new faces, fascinating stories and innovative ideas.

But, perhaps the most excitingMimi Selemela part for me so far has been watching Fashion Cities Africa slowly take shape and become something absolutely spectacular. Over the past couple of months, I’ve attended design meetings and been shown final exhibition plans, complete with colour, photo, pattern and text. I have seen Fashion Cities Africa name-dropped in Vogue UK, Elle South Africa and on a range of prestigious websites and blogs. I have opened the Royal Pavilion & Museums ‘What’s On’ guide to find Fashion Cities Africa taking the first page, watched each of our social media accounts respectively reach the 100 follower mark and witnessed the unbelievably positive impact of help received from Ronke Lawal’s Ariatu PR.

The next few months are looking set to be the most exciting and jam-packed yet, and I cannot wait to continue sharing every step of the journey with you guys on our blog, Tumblr and Instagram. Keep your eyes peeled for more behind-the-scenes gossip and news!

As ever, thank you all for reading! Until next time,
Ruby McGonigle, retail and bookings office assistant, Royal Pavilion & Museums