SECONDHAND RETURN: LOME - PARIS

"It is common for charities from the west to collect used items like clothes and shoes and ship them to Africa as aid. They view Africa as a charity case and turn it into a dumping ground for goods well-intentioned Americans and Europeans discard. These rarely end up as charity, though; instead, they are sold in massive second-hand clothing markets. Africa is full of enterprising, resourceful, creative and very fashionable youth. It has also historically been the source and inspiration for countless designers, and the origin of much of the evolution of global fashion taste.

Amah Ayivi is a Togolese designer living in Paris and a leading figure of the Afro-chic / Afro-punk movement. Amah frequently travels to Togo and scours the second-hand markets to find gems among the clothing and bags. With his deep sense of style and creativity he selects and curates his aesthetic, then ships the clothes Europeans had thrown out back to Paris and sells them at a steep profit as chic vintage in high-end boutiques.  

I followed Amah through one cycle capturing the growing Afro-Punk aesthetic; the unique ingenuity and taste of the young African fashion set; an unseen twist on globalization; and a challenge to the pervasive assumption that Africa needs the castoffs of the west.