Portland Art Museum Presents the Globally Acclaimed “Africa Fashion” Exhibit

We spoke with Portland-based designer Komi Jean Pierre Nugloze, who is showcasing two of his designs in the exhibition

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After an acclaimed debut at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and a stop at the Brooklyn Museum of Art—the Africa Fashion exhibition will make its only West Coast stop at the Portland Art Museum from November 18 - February 18. The first-of-its-kind exhibition pays homage to the “irresistible creativity, ingenuity, and unstoppable global impact of contemporary African fashions.”

Africa Fashion showcases the expansiveness of the contemporary African fashion scene through its display of more than 50 outfits designed by over 40 designers hailing from 21 different countries. From elegant minimalist garments that defy stereotypes to shimmering silk couture, to references to AfroFuturism—the multifaceted layers of Africa’s cosmopolitan fashion scene will unfold before your very eyes at PAM.

Moreover, Africa Fashion represents multiple and varied African voices and perspectives. The exhibition explores how fashion “formed a key part of Africa’s cultural renaissance,” and, at times, has been utilized as a political tool. And for designers like Portland-based Komi Jean Pierre Nugloze, the latter definition of African fashion is especially important.

Nugloze, a Togo native, is showcasing two of his designs in the exhibition; the first piece is female presenting and is inspired by the elegant way in which African women dress, says Nugloze.

“Most of my inspiration comes from the way our African mothers use African textiles, ways that I have then adapted to everyday wear,” he says.

The second design Nugloze is showcasing at PAM is a male presenting piece born out of Nugloze’s desire to create a gender-neutral clothing line—which, in some ways, he says, reflects his own experience as a black designer and as a gay man.

“As a designer, I have always visualized a clothing line that has no gender and integrates designs that contrast the strict gender identities of my West African origins,” says Nugloze. “I aim to express this spirit and emotions through my work.”

In addition to owning his boutique in Pioneer Place, N’Kossi, Nugloze also works as an educator and activist for LGBTQ+ rights. He says his goal is to help his home continent of Africa better understand and accept those in the LGBTQ+ community. Nugloze has found the opportunity to live his truth here in Portland, where his designs, and his identity, are “recognized and valued for their worth.”

“It means a lot to me to have my work included in this exhibition,” he says. “Since 2016, I’ve been introducing to the Oregon gaze the value of the African blend of colors, prints, and fashion. It is an honor to have that work recognized.”

You can visit portlandartmuseum.org/event/africa-fashion/ to learn more about the exhibit; to see Nugloze’s vision in real life, head over to the PAM anytime from November 15 to February 18.

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