Thigh-highs, warm coats, thick stockings, scarves and gloves have served us well in winter, but summer is nearly here and we’re so ready to embrace the new season and, most importantly, we are ready for new fashion trends. The coolest thing about summer is that you get to make the rules. You can be playful with your look and experiment with new styles.  2017 has been a good year for African designers to showcase the best of Africa, and the summer trends will, no doubtedly, crossover internationally. Some of Africa’s top designers took part in South Africa’s Fashion Week. The designers who showcased brought in fresh, vibrant colours that are synonymous with African summer. They spoke to Africa.com about the reasons they took part in the event, what to look out for this summer, and, most importantly, how their collections will represent Africa abroad.

We have picked some of the latest and most wearable fashion trends for women to welcome the new season.

1Lace Floral Print

Usually, brides come to mind when you think of lace. Or, maybe an evening wear. Well, for summer, designers hope to change your mind about this timeless trend, and they are clear that lace is here to stay. Lace is light and easy to wear, so many of the seasons outfits will incorporate it. You just have to keep the balance and carefully combine it with your everyday outfits. The key with lace is to pick the right colour, fabric, and style says fashion designer, Carla Pinto. Pinto showcased her latest collection at the SA Fashion Week. Pinto’s House – African Style Story is all about prints, floral and lace. For the show, she recreated a floral lace print that contrasts beautifully with a geometrical crochet print. Pinto says her main source of inspiration was the antique lace and crochet patterns. She says she has a way around to refresh and revitalise lace.

The Portuguese designer says this visual illusion will definitely give women the unique possibility to wear clothes with a sophistication and timeless, yet sporty look. The fresh approach is to make it anything but formal. Pinto says if you want to grab attention, coloured lace is perfect for you. She says to choose anything from bright red, yellow, blue or pink colours instead of playing it safe with white and black.

2Kimono Dress

A Kimono dress is definitely the prettiest thing to wear this summer. The historic and traditional kimono comes from Japan and has a long list of different traditions and styles. But, one needs to be careful with this trend, as it can be easily mistaken for a loungewear robe. South African fashion designer, Vanya Mangaliso, says that when choosing this look, it’s important to choose the one that you’re most comfortable with and a perfect fit. Kimonos come in various lengths. Mangaliso says to try and avoid ankle-length versions and rather choose calf-length designs instead.

There are many different types of kimonos; they range from cotton to silk, satin and embroidered. They also come in every pattern under the sun from florals to stripes. There are a ton of different ways to style a Kimono, and the best part about it is that it instantly transforms your outfit and you can dress it up or down depending on the occasion. Some have rocked this trend with jeans, shorts, or even a simple dress. Another cool thing about a Kimono is that you can also wear it as a dress on its own – just add a belt and you’re ready to go. Many celebrities around the globe have been spotted rocking this trend. South African actress, Pearl Thusi, and Nigerian musician, Tiwa Savage, have found modern ways to show off the historical trend.

3Off The Shoulder

Fashion designer, Loubna Ayouche Combalat, says that off-the-shoulder tops and dresses will be a fashion phenomenon this summer. “It is no longer just about the straight-cross style, but a diversity in wearing them: Two-shoulder, one-shoulder, asymmetrical, cut-out. Summer is always a fun, happy season to explore new ideas,” says the designer. The one-shoulder look is not a new look. This trend has made a remarkable comeback from the 80s. Cameroonian fashion designer, Kibonen Nfi, says the shoulder cut-out look is chic, unique, versatile, and easy to style. She says you will definitely steal attention if you pair a one-shoulder top with high-waist pants, or even with a pair of tailored trouser pants with side pockets.

South African fashion designer, James Moroeng, added that one-shoulder dresses are a massive hit this season with shirt styles being in the spotlight and evening gowns with the one-shoulder design looking more sophisticated and refined than ever. Moroccan designer, Combalat, says one can definitely afford to play around with this trend …”from mini dresses to maxi styles, gowns to casual – one-shoulder styles are the detail that make a simple dress or top look interesting and give some edge or chicness to an otherwise too-common outfit.”

4All White

White is always the ‘it’ colour for summer. Whether you’re off to the beach, having lunch with the girls, or painting the city streets this summer, there’s something about an all-white ensemble that keeps things clean and simple, yet chic, and is an easy way to look fresh all season long. Designer Loubna Ayouche Combalat says that wearing white has always been a trend during the summer everywhere in the world. “I expect to see white again around this season, because of the popular notion that white leaves us cooler, hence fresher during the heat days, says Combalat.” She adds that the more layers you include, the more interesting your outfit will be.

Designer Kibonen Nfi says that if an all-white outfit is done right, it instantly adds an elegant and sophisticated vibe for every occasion. Nfi says, “Everyone can pull off this trend and look absolutely gorgeous. Pair your white skinny jeans with a white blouse for a timeless all-white look. You literally can’t go wrong with this outfit. Also, if your outfit includes a crop-top and a white blazer, it’s definitely a winning look. Let’s not forget a simple white dress, whether long or short – it will definitely make a statement this summer.”

5Bright Colours

Welcome to the season of colour confidence. Summer is a season of freedom and exploration. It’s time to show your true colours, and going colourful is a perfect way to express that. South African fashion designer, James Moroeng, says the girlier, the better this season. “Bump up the romance and don’t be afraid of bright colours. Summer allows you to play with colour.” But, he warns that sometimes colourful outfits are tricky to style. Moroeng says it’s easy to rock this trend if you stick to solids and make sure to colour block.

Designer, Loubna Ayouche Combalat, also added that mix-and-match colors and color-blocking will definitely give you that glow. Combalat says we must not play it safe with bold colours. “From powerful pinks, frog greens, red, sunshine yellows and zesty oranges. The only styling rule when it comes to colour for 2017 is wear lots of it. Orange and bright blue? Sure! Pink and purple? Go for it! Sky blue and scarlet, you will definitely turn heads with these colours.” Pink and red are colours we are traditionally told to keep separate. However, fashion designers at SA Fashion Week chose not to play it safe with this trend.

6Statement Sleeves

Attention-grabbing sleeves are stealing all the spotlight this summer. One cannot afford to miss out on this cool trend. The look is chic, girly, sophisticated, and elegant. One should definitely invest their money on the bell-shaped, bishop to balloon and loud ruffle sleeves. This trend adds a unique dose of fashion to even the simplest of outfits. Designer, James Moroeng, says when you choose to adopt this style, always remember to keep the rest of your look minimal and allow your statement bell sleeves to drive your outfit. “When shopping for bell sleeves look for styles that are a little flamboyant. And a simple silhouette in a neutral colour palette is all you need to finish this look.” And for those who are hoping for something a little dramatic – ruffle sleeves is a must-have in their wardrobe.

These sleeves are loud, fun, and attention-loving. Moroeng says, “Forget loud colours and patterns and opt for minimal black and white hues instead. Pair your ruffle sleeve shirt with simple designs such as cropped, straight-leg trousers. The straight-forward style will keep your look super stylish and chic, rather than letting it go over-the-top.” For those looking for something more conservative and simple, bishop sleeves are a must to have. These sleeves are soft and feminine. Most commonly spotted on lovely dresses, bishop sleeves complement the outfits to which they belong while remaining a standout feature in their own right.

7Print Clashes

Prints are never going to go out of style, and now the next big thing this summer is print clashes. For true fashionistas, clashing is a head-turning fashion statement and a fun way to transform outdated soloist pieces into revived ensembles. South African fashion designer, Rina Chunga, says it’s time to spice things up this summer and break the rules by mixing different patterns and prints. “Rather than wearing prints with a plain colour, we are now mixing prints with more prints.” Pattern-clashing is not an entirely new dimension to fashion. It is definitely one that keeps re-emerging on the runway. Chunga showcased her African print collection at SA Fashion Week last month. She says her collection was inspired by her deep love for Africa.

The Zambian-born fashion designer says that normally with African prints, people would also go for a safe option and pair them with a plain skirt or a pair of jeans. Chunga says think crop tops, peplum tops, boxy cuts and even blazers paired with another African print skirt, pants or shorts. South African fashion designer, Ekta Kalan, also added that clash prints and patterns are the next big thing to welcome the new season. Kalan says the focus for next season should be on contemporary styles from Africa, modern shapes and styles that are global, but yet truly authentic and unique to Africa, where heritage in prints, colours, and culture are incorporated into modern and global looks.

8Floral Prints

Some fashion trends never actually go out of style – like that little black dress, denim shorts, or high-waist pants. One of the biggest style statements that remains timeless is the floral pattern print. So, if you’re hoping to achieve that girly-girl look this summer, then you definitely need to add some florals to your wardrobe. Floral is one of those fashion features that can instantly make any woman feel feminine, says fashion designer, Carla Pinto. She adds that this girly look allows one to be creative and playful. “Floral prints allow for a mix of colours – from pretty pastels to moody taupe shades.” Pinto also went very big during her show at SA Fashion Week.

Talking to Africa.com, she’s suggested ways on how to rock this timeless trend. “Not sure how to work the floral trend? You don’t need to be head-to-toe in flower prints to celebrate this feminine style. Team a pretty floral bodycon dress with a more masculine leather or denim jacket for a rock-chick edge, or choose a floral blazer on top of a plain black midi. If you want to work floral, but to a minimum, floral pumps or a printed clutch purse are excellent understated accessories.”

9Denim

This trend is definitely here forever. Every few years, we see a significant shift in the shapes and cuts of denim. It allows fashion designers to get more and more creative. Kenyan-born fashion designer, Liz Ogumbo, says this timeless trend is universal and is suitable for every season and every body shape, and, of course, we can go even bigger this summer. From denim shorts to dresses, pants, and skirts, one can never go wrong. Ogumbo says for some it can be tricky at times to figure out how to wear denim in the hot summer months. The designer has given us some tips on how to pull this trend off and still enjoy the hot weather. “Denim shorts are pretty much obvious for summer. And everyone needs the perfect cropped jeans for summer. Also, the denim romper can be an alternative.

The playful onesie is a perfect summer piece to wear over swimsuits. Denim shirts also remain in style, but try do it differently this season. Instead of wearing the shirt, wear a little black lace dress to daytime and try wrapping it around your waist. I always have white denim for summer, but I like to play around with colour as well and incorporate other coloured denim as well,” says Ogumbo. South African fashion designer, Phiwase Nxumalo, adds that a classic denim jacket is a must for when the summer sun sets and can be worn with everything.

10Accessories

And to complete your summer look, you need the right accessories. According to fashion designer, Mangaliso, “African fashion accessories are the next big wave. This will now see more of them become better refined, everyday lifestyle items as opposed to exotic ‘costume’ from bags to jewellery.” Just like with style concepts of African jewellery have evolved, one of the best pieces that illustrate this is the Ndebele choker. Not only does it elongate posture, but gives one a glow that makes a bold statement. Another accessory that has been embraced is the Kenyan Masai Beaded Collar Neckpiece as it has often popped up in the most interesting places. Imagine a simple black bodycon dress paired with the Masai Beaded Collar…it brings the outfit to life regardless of the occasion. Of course a sun hat is a must-have for summer. Mangaliso says not just any old hat… “Not all sunhats are created equal and the wearer often knows the difference. Hats to marvel are the way, conversation pieces that what we are looking forward to this summer.” Block heels need to be in your closet whether you’re looking to add some height to your look. Designers at SA Fashion Week incorporated the style into their collection in several ways during the shows.

Summer is always a fun and happy season to explore new ideas, but when it comes to having a panache for style, everyone has their own. It represents their own message of expression, their own fingerprints on their selection of outfits. The fashion designers we spoke to say it’s always important to set your own trends based on how you feel when you wake up in the morning, the seasons, your personality, your body type, and everything around what you do. They say this is the time for the rise of individualism and a break from being dictated by international trends.

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