World uniting into «one big fashion generation,» Tanzanian model says (dpa German Press Agency)

While regional styles merge with global trends, the commercialization of fashion is leading to more diversity in the choice of models, Tanzanian top model Millen Magese says.
Johannesburg (dpa) – Global fashion no longer fits into categories such as Western or African, says Tanzanian top model Millen Magese, who works for African designers as well as the likes of Ralph Lauren in New York.
“African fashion used to be about showing our culture, but now [that can be done] with just a touch of beads” in designs that do not look distinctly African, the 34-year-old says at the Johannesburg studio of South African designer David Tlale, who regards her as his muse.
US and European designers have started using African fabrics, she adds. “Everyone wants to connect and become one big fashion generation,” Magese says.
Growing up as the daughter of a sugar estate manager in the eastern Tanzanian region of Mwanza, Magese was elected Miss Tanzania in 2001.
But the east African country had practically no fashion industry at the time, and Magese only found her way into modelling when she moved to South Africa with the intention of studying business administration in 2004.
After only two days in the country, she was discovered by a modeling agent at a shopping mall – and she has not looked back since.
Black top models such as Iman or Alek Wek have shown the way for the likes of Magese.
Tlale says he deliberately uses a majority of black models to show that “black is beautiful” – a trend that Magese sees as forming part of a general “democratization” of fashion.
“We used to see fashion through celebrities, but today’s [ordinary] woman can wear what a celebrity wore yesterday,” she says.
“Fashion is no longer just showcasing, it is about selling and creating jobs, and social media and the media are helping a lot” in popularizing designs that are becoming more affordable, Magese says.
The commercialization of fashion has led to a greater diversity in the choice of models, because “designers understand they need to sell their outfits to everyone, not just 16-year-old [model look-a-likes].”
Models now come in different skin colours and body shapes, and “look at Naomi Campbell – she is in her 40s and still running.”
“Everyone has their own kind of beauty, and the fashion industry is adjusting to that,” Magese says, stressing that “you need to be a personality” to succeed as a model.
Growing numbers of Africans can afford fashionable clothes, and that will lead even Western designers to choose black models, she believes.
“As Africans, we have understood the meaning of fashion” and “we want to dress up as much as we can,” says the model, who signed up with the Ford model agency in 2010.
Despite spending most of her time in New York, Magese has not forgotten her origins and has established a company whose activities include promoting Tanzanian fashion.
“We Africans have talented designers in front of our eyes, and we don’t have to go to American shops,” she says.

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