Our home, Sierra Leone, is a tiny West-African country that has had it fair share of challenges over the last 25 years or so. While Sierra Leone has a rich history and natural resources too numerous to name, many would recognize Sierra Leone as the home of extreme poverty, blood diamonds, a civil war, and the deadly Ebola virus. But often, we see a place based on how we want to see it. There is beauty in Sierra Leone, and it is often shown in the fashion and style of the people that call it home. Think vibrant colors and people that are not afraid to take risks with their looks. From the fabric they use to the details themselves in the designs, it is clear that Sierra Leone has so much to offer when it comes to fashion.
Fashion is Key to Sierra Leonean Arts and Culture
Sierra Leone has a rich tradition in weaving and textiles that date back hundreds of years. According to brittanica.com, the weaving of cloth, typically blue, brown, white, or a combination of these colors, is carried out in the southern and eastern regions by the people of the Mende and Kono tribes. Thread spun from the cotton bush Gossypium is used in weaving. This handwoven cloth is an important item of barter and wealth and is used in many ceremonies and rituals. The cloth is made into coats for men or is worn as a wraparound lower-body garment by women and is also used as a bedspread. In the north, among the Temne people, imported cotton or satin is tie-dyed in beautiful patterns with indigo, the red juice of the kola nut, or imported dyes. In the west, baskets are made with dyed raffia, and patterned slippers are fashioned from dyed wool. In addition, Sierra Leone’s coastal location made it a key trading partner for surrounding countries. Trade not only influenced fashion and culture locally, but Sierra Leonean trends and designs were spread abroad as well. The krios, who have a history as resettled enslaved people from Nova Scotia also have a rich history of fashion with prints and designs. This tells us that fashion has always been a big part of Sierra Leone’s culture.
Vibrant tie-dye fabrics have a long history in Sierra Leone but have undergone significant stylistic changes in recent years. The country has seen the growth of a small but dynamic fashion industry, centered around designers in Freetown and artisanal producers in Bo, Kailahun, Kenema, and Makeni. Designers like Aschobi, Madam Wokie, Bivaminks to the new school of designers like Franklyndero are utilizing traditional techniques for modern styles There are also great Sierra Leonean designers abroad as well with notable names like Labrum London and Sidney Davies to name a few. There are great opportunities to tap into the growing global demand for Sierra Leone and African fashion on the continent and around the world.
Model wears design from the brand Bivaminks
Model wears design from the brand Madam Wokie
Model wears design from Labrum London
Models wear designs from Sydney-Davies Man Collection
The people of Sierra Leone inspire every design we make at Royal Dynamite. One of our co-Founder’s Cecil Williams, was so inspired by his grandmother's work in tye-dye that the brand created an entire t-shirt collection called “Color Couture'' that was made in Sierra Leone by a local Artisan, Mr Selu, who was trained by his grandmother. She had a booming fashion business in her days called Cheedonian and most recently had her work displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Sierra Leonean dress displayed in London from the Cheedonian Boutique in Freetown
It was given as a gift to Lalage Bown in 1994 and purchased by a student who had visited Sierra Leone for research. The dress was purchased from the Cheedonian Boutique, which was owned by the late Mrs Abator Cheedy and located in the middle of Freetown, along or near Wilberforce Street.
Our culture and history is reflected in every design element, every phrase and even our colors we choose to use for each collection at Royal Dynamite. For our recent collection, we even traveled back home to Freetown to do our photoshoot at Fourah Bay College, the oldest western-style university in sub-Saharan Africa. We knew that the students would blow us away with their creativity and style. They did not disappoint!
Models from our latest “We Outside” Collection.
Fashion is Everywhere
Here at Royal Dynamite, we’re proud of the long tradition in fashion and the arts that we find in Sierra Leone. Despite, or maybe because of, our rough history, we value our culture so much. There really is beauty in everything around us! We just need to choose to see it rather than keep our focus on the things that are not so beautiful. We hope to continue to share our love of fashion with you! Let us know in the comments: where are you from? What does fashion mean to you?