Valentino’s Spring 2016 Campaign.

“The clothes were inspired by African motifs.” ~McCurry

To me the word inspiration is tied to respect. To be inspired by something is to love that thing so much, your love for it sparks a new creation. When you are inspired,you are awed by your muse, you want to learn more about your muse. Unless of course, your muse is Africa.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions.

Binyavanga Wainaina, How to Write about Africa

Design house Valentino went to Steven McCurry to shoot their Spring 2016 campaign. And went as far as referring to him as a ‘cultural reporter’ perfect for their African excursion.

McCurry took on the task, convenience checklist and African motifs in hand McCurry found himself in Amboseli with the locals who were beautiful and savvy enough to be background props for his shoot.

Valentino Spring 2016 Campaign shot in Amboseli Park in Kenya.


But what are African motifs? What are these cultural aspects that are so present… so reoccurring in all 54 African countries that they can not only be bundled into one vague phrase but also be condensed into one fashion collection.

“The idea of these pictures is to take the viewer on a journey. The clothes were inspired by African motifs, [so] to take the shoot to Africa and show how these things interact and, this connection of the clothes, the models, the environment, the local people; I thought it was a great endeavor.”

Steve McCurry in WWD


He also goes on to explain the choice to shoot in Amboseli was based off of convince and aesthetics revealing that Amboseli had no role in inspiring the creation of the collection and was just a suitable after thought.

McCurry refers to Africa in a rather singular (and vague) way, he doesn’t need to specify which culture because he already said, Africa. And therefore does not need to expand. Because Africa is not a place with diverse cultures, industries, class systems, socio-political struggles and relatable beauty. Don’t be silly. Africa is that place slaves came from, home to the mysterious pyramids, land of safaris and starving children you can save for x-amount a month. Africa is more fantasy than reality. And her inhabitants are here to make that fantasy come to life, for McCurry it was as great looking ‘tall, thin, regal, majestic’ props for a fashion shoot.

Although there are exceptions; sometimes people in fashion are genuinely inspired by Africa, a recent example would be Zac Posen, who was inspired by Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya-Nyabongo of Toro. Unfortunately, specificity when it comes to Africa is rare, and as a result when the Leso inspires someone in the international fashion industry the significance of the Leso, even the name of the garment is unimportant so long as you make sure you say it is from/inspired by Africa.


“Valentino Jaguar Print Sheath Dress”


This view of Africa is so deeply engraved in the world that sometimes even Africans buy into this generalized idea of Africa. Using the word ‘African’ not to unify us but dismiss us, water us down and make us easier to package and exploit. And it must stop.

So in short what I am trying to say is, fuck your African motifs McCurry.

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Stay fashionable xoxo


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