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April 5, 2012

By Fiona Ní Mháille

This season, the Afrocentric trend exploded onto the spring/summer runways of Proenza Schouler, JK Anderson and Michael Kors. Every summer, it seems the hottest designers around look to the sun-baked plains of Africa for inspiration: ethnic and animal prints, khaki colours and beaded clothes.

In his spring/summer collection, Kors brought oversized print to the runway. He brought a modern twist to the maxi leopard print dress with a down-to-there plunge neckline and an up-to-there thigh-high slit.

Homespun embellishments are no longer restricted to cushions or tablecloths. Crochet knits, beaded bags and raffia trims are bang-on-trend. Team big prints with crisp white shirts or trousers, this will keep the look clean with a summer-fresh feel.

Topshop Unique also embraced this trend in its spring/summer collection. What it lacked in colour, it made up for in cut. Its black maxi dress had a lot of flirty cut-outs and holes. It steered clear of boredom by incorporating Afrocentric accessories into the look, like a triple gold arm band and gold ankle straps over leather peep-toe platforms.

African accessories are only for the brave because they are usually oversized and chunky. Stick to only one or two pieces to avoid looking like walking tinfoil. Instead of bringing too many accessories to its spring/summer collection, the house of Gucci sent models with dramatic make-up down the runway. If you’re wearing an animal or tribal print dress on a night out, take a leaf out of Gucci’s book and overdose on the black eyeliner. Smokey eye make-up is the ultimate seduction tool.

If you’re in doubt about how to rock the African tribal look, stick to the fail-safe-five: khaki skirts, safari jackets, white blouses, nude shorts and leather bags. This trend is hot-to-trot because it suits every skin tone and it’s so easy to match with other clothes. Cheryl Cole is a huge fan of wearing khaki shirts with beige shorts. She finishes this look with nude heels to elongate her pins. Cole is only 5’3’’but she looks six foot tall when she rocks the Afrocentric trend.

Kate Moss and Elle Mac Pherson are also fans of this look. Unlike Cole, who favours Mc Queen’s clothes and Louboutin shoes, Moss has been spotted wearing purse-friendly versions of the trend.

River Island has a white tie front shirt in stores now for €18. Team this with a khaki parka jacket available nationwide at Dorothy Perkins from €42. Release your inner animal with a tribal t-shirt. Penneys do a fabulous graphic tee shirt with a lion print for €6.

If you’re embracing the zebra print, think beyond black and white. Teaming zebra stripes with a neon pink belt will really make the outfit pop. If you want to go for something more subtle, wear a zebra stripe top with black trousers and finish the look off with rouge lippie and matching nail polish. For its spring/summer collection, Proenza Schouler re-vamped the zebra look by keeping the print, but changing the black and white colour to orange, gold and grey.

The materials that work best with this look are floaty silks, comfy cottons and structured leather. Stick to one or two prints in an ensemble to keep it fresh and roaring.