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Fashion and Data Combine to Create Unique African Designs

By Khalifa Hemed
Published September 3, 2018

Lagos-based Zizi Cardow;s designThe power of technology and fashion have combined in a thought-provoking project that not only demonstrates how data can transform African cities but has resulted in the creation of unique, stylish and smart outfits.

Siemens, a German technology company used data from the cities of Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg and wove it into unique fabrics which tell a story about each city. Three African fashion designers then used the fabrics to create one-of-kind outfits, which are as stylish as they are smart!

The designers who were brought on board to create 12 extraordinary outfits from vast amounts of data extracted from the cities include Kenya’s John Kaveke, Nigeria’s Zizi Cardow and South Africa’s Palesa Mokubung outline a variety of patterns from power grids, shipping and tonnage to population densities, transport and areas of connectivity. Data from each of these sectors tell a story about each city and how digitalization can transform them. All of this is told through the universal language of fashion and design.

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Nairobi-born John Kaveke's designSaying the Fabric project had transformed her thinking, Johannesburg-based Palesa Mokubung observes, “It opened so many new elements of inspiration, it’s like I am only truly experiencing Johannesburg right now. I see Johannesburg as more dynamic with hidden opportunities underneath highways, pipes and houses. I’m forever changed when it comes to what I do and how I see the city.”

While Nairobi-born John Kaveke says there was no better way to tell the story than through fashion as “Fashion and technology are a universal language and the two combined create a formidable team,” Lagos-based Zizi Cardow says,“It’s time Africa equipped itself with information. Africa is often overlooked in terms of technology and science so pushing forward on these incredibly important aspects is the next step to propel the continent. Having more data about Africa means understanding our nations better and equipping ourselves to solve the problems we face.”

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Johannesburg-based Palesa Mokubung's design.While there is a growing adoption of intelligent machines within certain sectors like the automotive industry, the real opportunity for Africa lies in sectors where it has not yet been explored like manufacturing, energy and transportation. This is a remarkable opportunity for Africa which will result in the establishment of new industries and new jobs, while exponentially increasing skills development and contributing to GDP.

“This is how we thought to express the aspect of digitalization. As urbanization rapidly increases, cities need to start preparing for the effects it will have on infrastructure, energy, water and transportation systems,” says Keshin Govender, Group Communications Head for Siemens South Africa. “Data gives greater insight on what makes each city tick, helping us make calculated decisions and improve service delivery to the people. Through the FABRIC project, it was evident that the challenge is not what to do with the avalanche of data but rather accessing reliable and recent data. This project has highlighted the need for access to data in order to make sound urban planning decisions.”

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