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African Style Archive: Introducing Tosin Adeosun

Headshot of Tosin wearing a green top
  • Written byJ Tilley
  • Published date07 May 2021
Headshot of Tosin wearing a green top
Tosin Adeosun 2021 - Photography by Krystal Neuvill

This month we are teaming up with Curator, Researcher and Founder of African Style Archive, Tosin Adeosun, to deliver a week-long Instagram exhibition exploring African style and sartorial practices through imagery and conversation. Founded by Tosin Adeosun, what started out as sharing iPhone images of old family albums is now African Style Archive, a digital platform dedicated to showcasing African style, from fashion shows to magazine clippings and street style snaps.

Supported by LCF curator and archivist, Susanna Cordner, the takeover starting Monday 10 May 2021, will celebrate the beauty of Africa’s historical fashion and the art of curation. Features will explore areas such as men’s tailoring in 1970’s Central Africa, captured through the lens of Cameroonian photographer Michel Kameni and Congolese photographer Maurice Bidilou, archival imagery showcasing one of Africa’s most worn and well-known fabrics – the wax print and Chez Julie (Juliana Norteye), Ghana’s first professionally trained post-independence fashion designer.

We caught up with Tosin ahead of the takeover launch next week, to find out more about her background as a curatorial researcher and the how she sees the future of African Style Archive.

What influenced you to begin a career as a freelance Curator and Researcher?

It was a gradual process but something that was always in the making for me, I think. I’m a naturally curious and inquisitive person, and I love fashion, art, history and my African heritage. This all combined to lead me to want to know more, share more, and have more conversations about the histories and narratives that I am researching, so that was my influence. Doing my MA in Art History and Museum Curating with Photography also helped a lot as it made me aware of further critical ways to think about, view and interact with visual culture.

Tell us about this particular exhibition and collaboration between LCF and African Style Archive; what are you hoping to uncover or showcase to people through your research and curation?

The collaboration for this exhibition aims to show the diversity of fashion and history on the African continent. It is blatant that African fashion history has been largely overlooked when it comes to fashion, art and historical studies and through this exhibition I hope to reach an audience to introduce and educate them on this wonderful and exciting history that there is so much to learn from. Another hope of mine is to begin a wider conversation around this topic and bring individuals interested in the topic together through the posts, and public programming.

African lady wearing white and black toga style dress
Photograph of model wearing Chez Julie’s designs at a fashion show. Image Courtesy: Chez Julie Since 1960
What are some of your future plans with the African Style Archive project?

That’s a tough one! I’m constantly buzzing with many ideas I want to execute. I have a few ideas I would like to see in a coffee table book. I also have some research ideas into focusing on fashion from specific eras and photographers archives I plan to carry out. My most immediate plan is to acquire more archival magazines and photographs to digitise so that there is an accessible digital resource pool for other researchers, historians and generally anyone interested in this history to reference.

Has your research had an impact on your personal taste in fashion, and if so, how?

My research has definitely impacted my personal style, I feel it has made me more intentional than I already was when I put outfits together and think about the meaning behind what I wear and how I wear it. Studying and looking at these photographs for a while has made me grasp how much thought went into putting these outfits together for the sitters, and how presenting yourself the way you want - as your best self - could make you feel good, even if I might not feel that way at the time.

Which photographer’s work struck you the most?

I genuinely think all the photographer’s archives I’ve looked through are amazing, so it’s a tough one. I do love James Barnor’s photography a lot though, I’m super excited to see his upcoming exhibition at the Serpentine soon.

Do you have any further reading or resource recommendations?

The Fashion and Race database is a great digital resource, I’m in awe of the hard work the team is doing with it. The African Lookbook by Catherine E. McKinley is also a great photo book with mini essays on African fashion. The archives of African photographers are great too, there are some great archives that have been digitised. The Archive of Malian Photography is a good place to start.

Follow African Style Archive Instagram Exhibition on LCF's social media from 10-16 May 2021.

Find out more about LCF Archives.